Wherever you tend to sit on the political spectrum, health insurance is a hot topic. In a world where the left and the right cannot agree on anything, almost everyone is convinced that health care in America can be done better. The country is in the midst of growing mental health and addiction crises, with health costs spiraling out of control. In a study conducted by the American Public Journal of Health, court records from 2013-2016 showed that 66 percent of bankruptcy filings were related to health care costs. In the richest country in the world, there is a burgeoning homeless population in major cities across the country with its own set of severe health problems. Even US military veterans, the people who gave their lives to serve the country, cannot get access to the health services that they need after leaving combat zones.
Suffice it to say, the situation is a giant mess and a lingering black mark on American society. All of us at some point, as well as our friends and family, are going to need health services of different kinds. This could be due to an unexpected injury from a bicycle accident, or daily medication that we must have, or an acute and life-threatening illness that needs to be resolved immediately. There are thousands and thousands of different scenarios that a functioning health care system needs to be able to deal with efficiently on a daily basis, without patients incurring massive fees that ruin their lives. A large part of this solution means making sure that health insurance companies and their policies provide for the huge number of different medical solutions that people need. Thousands of different drugs, treatments, operations and tests need to be provided for.
As part of the ongoing battle against decades of marijuana propaganda, medical cannabis patients are fighting to make sure that their needs are considered in this struggle. There are a whole host of reasons that medical cannabis should be treated the same as any other form of medication, but a good place to start is with its versatility.
If a patient contracts a rare bacterial infection, then it stands to reason that insurance companies would be required to provide the necessary antibiotics for recovery. This is an expensive process because antibiotic drugs take years of testing to develop, and are only used by people in rare and dire medical circumstances. There is not a lot of money to be made, and yet we expect antibiotics to be covered by insurance. Medical cannabis, in its various forms, is the polar opposite of these sorts of highly specialized treatments—it has a general utility. Cannabis can be used to treat extremely dire issues such as seizures, but is also very useful when it comes to managing chronic conditions such as pain. Because of its ability to interface with the human body’s natural endocannabinoid system, medical marijuana can be used to treat a wide range of issues—everything from appetite stimulation to sleeplessness to post-traumatic stress disorder. If any other medical treatment showed promise across such a wide range of different problems, it would no doubt be covered by health insurance. It is only because of the 20th century demonization of cannabis that certain factions claim it should not be covered by health insurance.
The broad utility of cannabis is one reason why it should be covered by health insurers, and another is cost. One of the reasons that the American healthcare system is in such trouble is because it is governed by free-market financial interests, which are often at odds with treatment. There have been a handful of cases in recent years when pharmaceutical companies have made enormous profits by exploiting their monopoly on lifesaving drugs. The creation of new antibiotics is a perfect case in point, where pharmaceutical companies have to go through long and expensive development processes in order to market drugs that do not make them a lot of money.
Cannabis is on the opposite end of this spectrum. It is profoundly inexpensive to produce compared with so many of the everyday medical supplies that we take for granted. It is not that cannabis is a substitute or a replacement for these drugs, but its cost to the system is far less. Ironically we are seeing this play out as more states pursue legalization. Because cannabis can be grown by almost anyone, legalization has hit roadblocks because corporate interests don’t know how to monetize it. There is a striking parallel here to the interests that have given us such a broken health care system. For years people tried to find out ways to make money off of sick people, and now we are reaping the results of that greed. Making sure that medical cannabis is covered by health insurers is one step in the right direction.