The Garden State is offering several financial assistance programs that could cover some of the costs of legal medicinal marijuana in New Jersey.
The state government wants to help patients who can’t afford to pay for their own medical marijuana. This is why it’s proposing a bill that would make it possible for people enrolled in four different financial assistance programs to only have to pay a small copay if they need medical marijuana.
If this legislation passes, health care providers will be required to ask if the patient needs any kind of assistance when filling out paperwork about which medical marijuana products they need.
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New Jersey Medical Marijuana Financial Assistance Programs
Four different financial assistance programs that help children, seniors, crime victims, and people with disabilities could receive aid with the cost of medical marijuana in New Jersey. This would occur under identical bills that the Senate and Assembly health committees have already approved.
Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, sponsored these bills in New Jersey. The vote for this medical marijuana cost coverage bill could happen within a week.
These are the New Jersey financial assistance programs that would offer the benefits:
Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund
The Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund is a financial assistance program New Jersey families can use if they have potentially catastrophic medical expenses that result from a child’s condition or illness.
If a family’s related expenses are incurred before the child’s 22nd birthday, to qualify for this program, the costs must:
- Exceed 10% of the family’s income that year, plus 15% of any income over $100,000; and
- Are not covered by insurance, other State or Federal programs, or other sources such as fundraising.
Any illness can be “catastrophic” when considering uncovered medical expenses and family income over the last 12 months. For the condition or illness to fit the term “catastrophic,” it must be acute or chronic with expenses that aren’t covered by federal, state, insurance programs, or other sources.
Other sources can include – but are not limited to – other State or Federal agency programs, trusts, insurance contracts, proceeds from fundraising, and settlements regarding the child’s medical condition. However, if the child’s source of health coverage pays for ambulatory services from within their provider network, the uncovered out-of-network expenses might not be reimbursable through this program.
“The cost of cannabis can run into the hundreds of dollars per month for individuals,” Conaway explained. “This bill serves those who are financially distressed and … ensures the benefits of medical cannabis are available to all who may need it.”
Through the bill, the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund will also be allowed to cover the cost of New Jersey medical cannabis for qualified patients. This organization already covers many medical expenses resulting from a child’s illnesses or conditions, and this would enable it to offer assistance to children in need of medical marijuana in New Jersey.
Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD)
The Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD) program is a state-funded program that offers assistance to eligible seniors and disabled persons to afford their prescription drug costs. But at this point, it does not help cover the costs of medical cannabis.
For someone to be eligible for the PAAD program, they must meet these requirements:
- You must be a New Jersey resident;
- You need to be at least 65 years of age or older or between ages 18 and 64 and getting Social Security Title II Disability benefits; and
- Your income for 2021 is less than $28,769 if single or less than $35,270 if you’re married.
Medicare-eligible PAAD beneficiaries also must enroll in a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan. PAAD pays the monthly premium for some standard basic Part D plans (with a monthly premium) at or below the regional benchmark.
For those who are eligible, these Medicare plans cover medically necessary prescription medications under Medicare Part D. But, if a beneficiary enrolls themselves in an enhanced plan at or below the regional benchmark premium amount, PAAD pays the premium if the plan agrees to follow all of the billing requirements.
The federal Medicare Plan and/or PAAD also cover costs above the PAAD co-payment of $5 for every covered generic drug or $7 for all covered brand name drugs. This includes premiums.
However, if the person’s Medicare Part D plan refuses to pay for medication because the drug is not on its list of medicines, PAAD beneficiaries must switch to a drug on their Part D plan’s list. Otherwise, their doctor needs to ask for an exception because of medical necessity directly to their Part D plan.
Medicare Advantage participants need to add a prescription benefit to their coverage. With this in mind, PAAD offers up to the regional benchmark amount to cover the prescription part of the entire premium.
Thus, patients enrolled in PAAD would have to pay a $7 copay for their medical marijuana in New Jersey. The organization already aids seniors and residents with disabilities who cannot afford their prescription drugs. But with medical marijuana ready to utilize as an alternative treatment, many would like it included in the list of medicines supported by this program.
Senior Gold Prescription Discount
The Senior Gold Prescription Discount Program is also a state-funded prescription program. However, it has a different co-payment structure and income eligibility guidelines when compared to the PAAD. And at this point, it cannot cover medical cannabis.
For someone to be eligible for Senior Gold, they must meet these requirements:
- You need to be a New Jersey resident;
- You must be 65 years old or older, or between the ages of 18 and 64 and getting Social Security Disability benefits;
- Your annual income for 2021 is greater than $28,769 and less than $38,769 if you’re single, or greater than $35,270 and less than $45,270 if you’re married.
Furthermore, every Medicare-eligible Senior Gold beneficiary must enroll in a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan. They are then responsible for paying the monthly premium directly to the Medicare Part D plan.
Beneficiaries also are responsible for paying any late enrollment penalty Medicare imposes each month they were eligible to enroll in Medicare Part D but didn’t enroll.
Those who have enrolled in the Senior Gold program only would need to pay a copay of $15 plus 50% of the excess cost of medical marijuana.
However, if a Senior Gold member already spent $2,000 out-of-pocket, or $3,000 if they’re a married couple, the copy is only $15 for medical cannabis if Vitale and Conaway’s bill passes.
“Patients in New Jersey who gain relief from pain or discomfort through the use of medical cannabis cut across a wide swath of our population, and yet the cost of the drug can be exorbitantly expensive for many people who rely on it most,” Vitale explained in a statement.
Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO)
The State VCCO is a program that reimburses victims for crime-related expenses. This includes the cost of medical expenses, mental health counseling, funeral and burial costs, and lost wages or loss of support.
Since the VCCO is a federally financed program, it currently does not offer compensation for medical marijuana-related expenses victims may incur. Thus, the new bill stands to benefit victims, especially those who have experienced some sort of traumatic crime that they are using medical cannabis to treat crime-associated mental illnesses.
Decreasing Out-of-Pocket Expenses with a Medical Marijuana Card
The bill’s mission is to ensure everyone can afford medical marijuana in New Jersey. Since ounces of medical cannabis flower in New Jersey can reach $500 apiece, reimbursement for these expenses is essential for some.
Since the federal government still views medical marijuana as a Schedule I drug lacking medicinal value, federal programs and programs connected to federal funding cannot cover medical cannabis legally. This includes health and medical insurance.
“We’re waiting for insurance coverage for this particular therapeutic but, not having that, we’re moving forward,” Conaway explained. “They are state-run programs with state-run dollars only, so there’s no implication of any federal program or action.”
Medicinal Marijuana Businesses in New Jersey
Medical marijuana businesses in New Jersey stand to gain more customers if this bill passes. The medicinal marijuana patients who would otherwise be unable to afford their medicine will now have the ability to buy what they need.
As the cannabis industry in New Jersey becomes more accessible to those who cannot afford the exorbitant prices, other businesses may also benefit. Particularly, alternative treatment centers fueling the state’s medicinal marijuana program.
Alternative Treatment Centers in New Jersey
Alternative treatment centers in New Jersey allow medical marijuana patients access to medicinal marijuana. All they need is a medical cannabis card, which allows the New Jersey medical marijuana program to thrive.
However, the medical marijuana program in New Jersey isn’t supporting these other programs just yet.
The new bill aims to enable patients, including minor patients and their legal guardians, to get medicinal marijuana, even if they cannot cover the cost of purchasing their medicinal marijuana from alternative treatment centers at a total price.
Quick Tips to Get a Card in New Jersey
To get a card in New Jersey through the cannabis regulatory commission, patient registration is essential. This involves visiting an approved physician – or a licensed physician.
Jersey residents can visit an approved physician to get a card in New Jersey. But they will need medical records showing the qualifying patient needs access to medical marijuana.
While there are some hoops to jump through, it’s possible to get a medical card in New Jersey. However, the cannabis regulatory commission demands qualifying patients – or their primary caregiver or legal guardian – go through the same process to gain access to the medicinal marijuana program.
Depending on the caregiver’s government assistance eligibility, they might be allowed to obtain medical marijuana at a discounted rate, too. However, they must hold a medical card on behalf of the patient.
The New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association has been instrumental in pushing for this legislation, associating themselves with the most vulnerable patients while promoting a viable and sustainable industry that benefits society as a whole.
As we can see from Conaway and Vitale’s stance on the matter, progress is being made in the Garden State. With more movement in the right direction, we’re sure to see positive impacts on the cannabis sector as a whole.
Medical Marijuana Patients in New Jersey
Medical marijuana patients younger than 18 can still get a medical marijuana card. But to get support for medicinal marijuana through one of the new programs, the bills must pass.
The Medical Cannabis Act allowed New Jersey to create its medicinal marijuana program. And while this supports terminally ill patients looking to get a medical marijuana card and visit an alternative treatment center, the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program is still somewhat limited because of federal prohibition.
Those who have a medical marijuana card in New Jersey can purchase and smoke medicinal marijuana. But despite the Medical Cannabis Act, New Jersey patients can still have trouble accessing the plant through the state’s medicinal marijuana program.
If the patient is too young or disabled, a medical marijuana card can be obtained by up to two caregivers. But each of these caregivers will need to apply for a medical card. However, with recreational cannabis legalization, the plant will become more accessible without a New Jersey MMJ card.
Serving Medical Marijuana Patients in New Jersey
While some might worry about tax dollars going towards alleviating the financial stress that comes with a medical card, cannabis business operators can look at this as an opportunity. With the right marketing, it’s possible to earn supplemental security income from medical cardholders.
New patients will come to the spotlight if this bill passes. And while qualifying conditions in New Jersey limit new patients, more patients will likely get an MMJ card once these programs begin offsetting the cost.
Whether you offer home delivery to each patient or have a dispensary that is interested in supporting every MMJ card patient with excellent customer service, we can expect this bill to support each patient, whether young or a senior citizen, by offering reduced fees for medical use marijuana to those that need it most.
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