Nearly 10,000 applications for medical marijuana therapy have been received by the country’s two largest health insurance companies, with over half of them being approved. The costs of cannabis therapies in Germany are being increasingly covered by the country’s public health insurance companies. This means patients who receive treatment don’t have to pay for it out of their own pockets, according to German Die Zeit newspaper.
Since March of this year, patients have received cannabis on a prescription basis. Since then, the health insurance funds have received several thousand applications. So far more than half of them have been approved. This is the result of figures from the two largest public health insurers, AOK and Barmer.
For instance, one of the largest public health insurance firms in Germany, the AOK, received 6,600 applications for the reimbursement of medical cannabis treatments. Roughly, 65 percent of the applications were approved. In addition, figures may increase as some requests were rejected. This was only for formal reasons and can be revised if re-submitted by a doctor and a patient.
The most common reason for the rejection is the lack of medical justification. That means that seriously ill patients must try all standard therapies and apply for cannabis treatment only if those didn’t help. AOK also received applications from patients who did not have any illnesses within the meaning of the law. Occasionally these are cases of herniated discs, which were previously treated only with heat therapy. Individual cases like these are common.
Since the use of cannabis for medical purposes has been legalized by the government, the company received about 2,900 applications for reimbursement. Roughly 1,700 of them have been approved. The reason for rejections was basically the same as in the case of the AOK. Mostly the lack of evidence that other treatment alternatives had proved unsuccessful.
Last March, severely ill patients were given access to cannabis. The requirement is according to the law that all usual therapies have failed. Before the change in the law, expensive therapy was difficult to cover. However, The Federal Government continues to reject a general legalization of cannabis. The health hazards of cannabis abuse especially in adolescents are medically proven, says FDP Group. Nevertheless, they view that the cannabis ban serves to protect the health of the population.
So far, two municipalities have requested model projects for the controlled sale of cannabis as a luxury item: the Berlin district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and the city of Münster. Both requests were rejected by the Federal Government as the model projects do not contribute to the medical care of the population.
The number of Germans receiving a prescription for medical cannabis has increased tenfold since before March this year, when Germany granted permission to only 1,000 special cases, estimates Georg Wurth of the German Hanfverband (Hemp Association). The number is expected to increase by 5,000-10,000 a year over the next few years.
“The growth of medical marijuana in Germany will be part of the solution to improving supply and cost issues,” says Wurth. Currently pharmacies carry about 15 strains of marijuana, out of hundreds of potential varieties.
According to the new law, any of the 90 percent of Germans covered by public health care are eligible to receive a prescription. Yet many patients still have to pay high costs out of pocket and are unsure of when or if they will be reimbursed. A few patients have even sued their insurance companies due to their unwillingness to pay.
But regulations don’t make it easy for doctors either. Silke Will, a researcher from Growholistic near Stuttgart, explained that it can be difficult for patients to receive a prescription from a doctor in the first place. They can only write one if a patient is Austherapiert, she said, meaning they have tried every other possible option first, and then receive permission from the Bundesopiumstelle or Germany’s Federal Opium Agency.