New York has taken a significant step toward treating medical cannabis as a legitimate medication. Senate Bill S8837 passed a floor vote with 54 Ayes and nine Nays.
SB S8837 has attracted national attention because it would force public insurance plans to treat medical cannabis like other prescription drugs. However, private insurers would not need to follow the regulation. The law would also make it possible for private insurers to cover medical marijuana if they choose to do so.
Making Medical Cannabis More Affordable for Patients
The bill’s justification states that “cost is the primary barrier to patient access in New York’s medical marijuana program.” Currently, no health insurance plans in the state help patients pay for medical cannabis. Some patients in New York start treatment but soon quit using their medications because they can’t afford to pay out of pocket.
If passed into law, SB S8837 would impact New York’s publicly funded programs, including Medicaid, workers’ compensation, Child Health Plus, and EPIC (Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage).
The Next Steps Toward Adding Cannabis to Health Insurance
The bill still has two hurdles to clear before it becomes law. It awaits a vote from the State Assembly, but they will likely approve the bill. In the Senate, every Democrat and more than half of Republicans voted to mandate cannabis coverage. Democrats have an overwhelming majority in the Assembly.
If the Assembly votes in favor of the bill, it will go to Governor Hochul, who can veto or sign it into law. Although the governor has shown support for expanding cannabis access, she has not made it clear whether she plans to approve the bill.
If Gov. Hochul vetoes the bill, it will go back to the state legislature, where members could override the decision and force it into law.