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For patients using cannabis oil, treatment can prove pricey

Hundreds of patients have filled medicinal cannabis oil prescriptions since the drug first became legal in Cayman Islands in early 2017. In many cases, however, insurance companies are not covering the cost and forcing patients to dig deep into their pockets to pay for the prescriptions themselves.

Cayman 27’s Kevin Morales has more.

“I’ve dealt with daily chronic pain for seven-and-a-half years since my accident,” said Nicole Eastman, who has a prescription for cannabis oil, and was involved in a serious motor vehicle collision. 

“I was at a point where I was getting to be pretty hopeless in terms of being in pain every day,” she said.

Then she tried newly legalized cannabis oil. At the Cayman Islands Hospital, her CINICO insurance covered the price tag, which is well over $100 for about a month’s worth.

At the CTMH Doctors Hospital, pharmacist Kevin Gipple says insurance coverage of the drug is minimal.

“It’s the exception, not the rule,” he said. “Very few companies cover it routinely.”

Mr. Gipple says over the past year-and-a-half, the hospital’s pharmacy has filled more than 200 patients’ prescriptions for cannabis oil.

Of those, less than 10 were covered by insurance.

“I don’t have any real problem with it,” Mr. Gipple said. “Insurance companies decide for themselves which prescription drugs they’re gonna cover and which ones they won’t.”

He says at the end of the day, insurance providers are under no obligation to cover cannabis oil.

“I wouldn’t say it’s (not) ethical,” he said. “I would say it’s a business decision. If companies are not meeting the demands of the customers, then generally the market will take care of that.”

He says the price tag forces many off the treatment.

“Cost is cited by a number of people and why they did not continue (treatment),” Mr. Gipple said.

Ms. Eastman says she’s not sure what she’d do if she were one of the hundreds having to pony up the cash.

“It would be a strain for us financially but at the same time it’s something that I would try to prioritize. It’s helping me,” Ms. Eastman said.

Mr. Gipple says many insurance companies will not cover a drug that hasn’t been approved by the U.S.-based Federal Drug Administration. Earlier this summer, the FDA did for the first time approve the drug to treat seizures.

Cayman 27 reached out to the Cayman Insurance Association for comment on this story. We did not hear back.

About the author

Kevin Morales

Kevin Morales

Cayman 27 News Director Kevin Morales is an award-winning journalist with more than 12 years of experience. Kevin is a Milwaukee, Wis., native. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2005 from the University of Minnesota. He's a proud father and a loyal fan of the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks and U of M Golden Gophers.

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