The big medical marijuana problem: paying for it

I was going to write about some events that happened yesterday but I’m still too upset, so those will have to wait. Instead, let’s travel back in time to Monday.

As I wrote then, I had a lot to do on Monday, and most of it was health-related. A big item on my list was to make an appointment to get a prescription for medical marijuana. As it turns out, it’s called a certification, not a prescription, but that’s just one of the things I learned.

I had been putting this off. I kept hoping that if one of my new meds worked, then I wouldn’t need medical marijuana for pain very often, or maybe not at all. But it’s been months and the meds haven’t worked. If anything, some of my symptoms have even gotten worse lately. After a horrible bout of pain and nausea the other night, which was only helped by the marijuana I happened to have already, I’d had enough. I finally decided it was worth getting the certification. I won’t use it often, so I considered just buying it off the street, but even from a trusted source, I couldn’t be sure what I’d get. Besides, some strains are better for the treatment of chronic pain, and I’d need to go to a proper provider for that. I got the names of doctors who will write the certification from friends, and was told it would be $200. Oy! And keep in mind, that’s $200 for the certification. I’d still have to buy the marijuana, the vaporizer, and everything else. But what can I do? And I’m already spending so much money on healthcare that isn’t covered by insurance, so what’s a bit more, right?

You might be wondering why it’s so expensive. I’m no expert, but here’s my understanding:

  • Any doctor is allowed to give the certification by law, but most medical centers aren’t comfortable with it and don’t allow their doctors to do it. Also, most doctors don’t have the experience with medical marijuana to make them qualified. After all this isn’t taught in medical schools.
  • The doctors that offer the certifications don’t take health insurance. I’m not sure if this is their choice or the insurance companies’ choice. I’m guessing it’s both.
  • Massachusetts is being very slow to set up medical marijuana dispensaries. They were approved by ballot in November 2012 and we don’t have them yet. In theory, they should be running later this year. That means most people aren’t using medical marijuana yet. So there aren’t as many doctors to offer certifications yet. That lack of competition means that prices can still be high.

So on Monday I picked up the phone to make my calls, and I wasn’t please. One friend told me the place she went was sketchy, and it sounded that way to me, too. That one was $200 for a 1-year certification. The other place seemed more professional and was $250 for the initial visits, with required follow-up visits for recertification every 6 months at a rate of $100 each. I found another online that seems great. That’s $250 for the initial visit and $200 for the recertifications every 6 months. And again, this isn’t for the marijuana, just for the certification so that I can legally buy it.

Those are the numbers, and they really suck. Being sick is expensive. We all know that. But it amazes me just how much of my medical care and treatment isn’t covered by health insurance. This is just one more example. So now I need to decide, should I go to the sketchy place for $200 for the first year, or a more legitimate place for $350-400 for the first year? What lousy choices.

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