Recently, the New Hampshiree Supreme Court ruled that the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board erred when it upheld an insurance carrier’s decision not to reimburse Andrew Pannagio, 50, for the cost of his medical marijuana. While the ruling sounds straightforward, it in no way serves to settle this dispute once and for all.
Medicinal Marijuana “Not Medically Necessary”
Andrew Panaggio hurt his back at work and received treatment for a number of years for the chronic pain resulting from the injury. After years of trying to treat his chronic pain, he was prescribed medical marijuana in 2016. Mr. Panaggio even got permission from the state Health Department to use medicinal marijuana. When he submitted his reimbursement form to his Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier, however, he was denied reimbursement because the carrier claimed medicinal marijuana was “not medically necessary.”
Andrew Panaggio then appealed his carrier’s denial of reimbursement to the New Hampshire Department of Labor. The Department of Labor ruled that Mr. Panaggio had not proven the marijuana to be medically necessary. Andrew then appealed again to the Compensation Appeals Board, which also ruled against him. The Compensation Appeals Board, however, claimed that the marijuana was medically necessary as it eliminated Mr. Panaggio’s dependence on opiates, but nonetheless upheld the carrier’s denial of reimbursement because such reimbursement is not permitted under state or federal law. He then appealed that decision even further to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which brings us to the recent ruling.
The Supreme Court ruled in Mr. Panaggio’s favor – sort of. Their ruling allows Workers’ Compensation insurance carriers to reimburse patients for the cost of medicinal marijuana under state law, however, the ruling does not address the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. The Court has sent the matter back to the Compensation Appeals Board for further consideration on this matter. In other words, they’re asking the Board to clarify their reasoning that the insurance carrier is not bound by state law to reimburse its patients for medical marijuana and is prevented by federal law from doing so.
Other States’ Rulings
This is not the first time this issue has to come to light. In fact, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico have all ruled that marijuana does qualify for reimbursement under Workers’ Compensation laws. Florida, North Dakota, and Michigan, on the other hand, exclude it from reimbursement under their worker’s compensation laws.