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New Hampshire decision may open door for medical marijuana in workers’ comp

by Mary McNitt | Mar 14, 2019

The New Hampshire Supreme Court recently released a unanimous decision that could open the door for payment of medical marijuana treatment as part of a workers’ compensation claim. While the court seemed to open one door for medical marijuana utilization, it appears to have left another one closed for the time being.

Claimant appeals denial to state Supreme Court
The claimant in the New Hampshire case, after prolonged treatment for chronic pain, was granted a medical marijuana card by the state medical marijuana program. Consistent with state requirements, the claimant purchased the product and submitted the receipt for reimbursement to the insurance carrier who later denied the treatment as “not reasonable/necessary or causally related” to the injury. After the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board upheld the carrier’s decision to refuse reimbursement on the grounds that medical marijuana is not legal under state or federal law, the claimant appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Supreme Court ruling
In the case, the state Supreme Court determined that since workers’ compensation insurers provide payments for medical treatments, they may be subjected to the same state statutes that cover medical cannabis as a viable medical treatment. However, the court did not opine on whether the insurer could face potential action under federal law for offering or providing the treatment and remanded the issue back to the Appeals Board, which is expected to eventually take up the unresolved issues.

What’s ahead?
In recent years, several agency and state judicial decisions have increased the trend that utilization of medical marijuana can be an acceptable treatment for certain workers’ compensation related injuries and may require coverage. Often the facts in these decisions follow the same pattern of approving the medical necessity of cannabis-based treatment as an alternate and effective treatment for chronic pain. As this issue continues to be discussed and decided at the state level, the Optum Workers’ Comp and Auto No-fault Government Affairs team will continue to track these outcomes and provide updates to our clients.

Should you have any questions on this or any other public policy issues, please contact the OWCA Government Affairs Team at AskGovtAffairs@optum.com.


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