How much could marijuana save Medicare funding?
Well… according to the research started in 2007 and recently published on HealthAffairs, the answer is somewhere in the realm of 1 billion per year.
How could this be?
Research concludes that states that employ some type of medical marijuana program have seen between an 11 and a 17 percent reduction in painkiller-prescription fulfillment. Now, this is not to say that doctors in those states have stopped prescribing opioids, it simply means that 11+ percent of people have decided against filling the prescription. Those who don’t fill the prescription would prefer to have their local pot delivery service bring them some herb.
This translates into a direct saving for Medicare because Medicare isn’t buying overpriced and over prescribed opiate derivatives for their cardholders.
For those who don’t know, the Medicare program is primarily comprised of elderly retirees on a fixed income. Therefor, it would make more personally fiscal sense to fill the prescription and let Medicare foot the bill. The only conclusion to be made from this is that the drop in fulfillment means that some 11+ percent of seniors would prefer to avoid the opioids rather than save money.
That’s an interesting concept; a concept quite contradictory to the current stated beliefs of our governing agencies. Our current attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for example, expressed astonishment “to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”
Clearly, Sessions is ignoring (or more likely completely unaware) of the data.
While we doubt that Sessions, or any of his cronies, are likely to poke around our little site, we’ve decided to bullet point some of the data for him anyways.
Legal marijuana access data:
- On a yearly average, states where marijuana was legalized experience about 25 percent fewer fatal overdoses from opioids than non-legal states.
- The trend seemed to grow year-over-year. The first year after legalization, the fatal overdose rate declined about 20 percent; after five years, these states saw about 34 percent fewer opioid-related overdose deaths.
- Hospital admissions due to opioid use also declined 28 to 35 percent in legal states compared to non-legal states.
- Legal marijuana laws make it easier for patients to obtain and use marijuana, and so reduce their reliance on opioids to manage their pain
- Medicare prescriptions for drugs that treat pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, seizures, nausea, and depression dropped significantly in the years following medical marijuana legalization.
- The decline in prescriptions covered under Medicare amounted to $165 million in savings in 2013 alone, and has since risen to a savings of $1.1 Billion a year.
This data seems moderately clear. People don’t want prescription drugs. Given the opportunity, they will go for the all natural, seemingly endlessly helpful properties of marijuana.
We can testify to that here at BNG deliveries. We have multiple fixed income seniors who have active prescriptions for medication they don’t want to use. So they don’t. Instead, they call us and get a strain that will quell their discomforts and keep them feeling useful and alive.
As long as people turn to marijuana to avoid designer drugs, there will continue to be a savings in the insurance companies that exclude marijuana coverage. Personally, we believe that marijuana should be covered under every medical insurance out there. We don’t want to see a savings. We want to see a shift in coverage and a landslide shift in use.
Until marijuana is reclassified to a lower drug schedule and allowed to be studied, this seems unlikely to happen.
And as we have seen time and time again- rescheduling seems like a light at the end of a very long and treacherous tunnel: filled with lies, disinformation, phobia, lack of understanding and archaic beliefs.
If you want to shorten that tunnel, it’s time to bother your Senator and Representatives. And I mean BOTHER them. Don’t write one letter or sign some petition that happened to come your way. Write them every Monday to let them know you think things need to change. And then follow up with a call the following Thursday to make sure they got your message. Accomplishing anything takes work; change takes even more work. So let’s work!