Medical Marijuana Saves Taxpayers Money

ReeferIn a fascinating article in Health Affairs, Ashley Bradford and David Bradford of the University of Georgia have estimated that medical marijuana has benefited taxpayers:

Using data on all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013, we found that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented. National overall reductions in Medicare program and enrollee spending when states implemented medical marijuana laws were estimated to be $165.2 million per year in 2013. The availability of medical marijuana has a significant effect on prescribing patterns and spending in Medicare Part D.

(Ashley C. Bradford and W. David Bradford, “Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Prescription Medication Use in Medicare Part D,” Health Affairs, 35 (7) July 2016, pp. 1230-1236.)

Let’s not get carried away, here. The Medicare Part D prescription drug program spent $69 billion on benefits in 2013, of which $59 was funded by taxpayers (not premiums). So, medical marijuana is making an insignificant dent in the burden of this entitlement.

Nevertheless, there are some lessons to be learned. Allowing states the freedom to legislate controversial issues like medical marijuana (instead of the federal government overriding states’ general police powers) has benefits. Sure, it allows laws to be made by a government that is closer to its people than Congress is. However, it also allows information to emerge because scholars can observe and assess different outcomes in different legal regimes. Once Congress acts to impose one rule nationwide, no such information can arise from which the people and legislators can learn.

It is also important to recognize people buy medical marijuana with their own money, not taxpayers’. This research highlights the Medicare Part D entitlement was not necessary for seniors to have access to medically necessary drugs. Seventy percent of the elderly already had prescription coverage, and $12 of $13 of Part D spending substituted for drug spending seniors already incurred.

Here’s a question: Some states have saved the federal government money by legalizing medical marijuana. Should those states get some kind of rebate from the federal government for this public service?

Comments (14)

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  1. Ron Greiner says:

    Health Affairs needs to lose their non-taxed status for lying. Now this Democratic Socialist propaganda non-taxed blog wrote:

    –“average premiums in the individual market actually dropped significantly upon implementation of the ACA, according to our new analysis, even while consumers got better coverage.”

    Dr. Graham, if you are correct that consumers had options in Florida when their insurance was TERMINATED before Obamacare then Hillary is a sweetheart for putting millions of poor Florida children on Florida KidCare and should be elected President.

    However, if I am correct, which I am, then Hillary putting millions and millions of Florida children on health insurance that they automatically lost on their 19th birthday, regardless of medical history, means Hillary killed more Florida children than anybody in American history.

    Non-taxed organizations have an ethical responsibility to tell the truth or they should lose their non-taxed status.

    • Allan says:

      Ron, tax-exempt status is merely an IRS term and has little relationship to benevolence.

  2. Big Truck Joe says:

    It’s funny how most medical marijuana advocates and the ones you see visiting the “clinics” are white males from 18-24 years old. I never knew debilitating cancer was so rampant in that patient population.

    • Ron Greiner says:

      JAMA reported that drug overdose deaths dropped 25% in those states that passed medical marijuana. I don’t think that your age group is correct.

      My nephew runs this blog:

    • Devon Herrick says:

      Big Truck Joe, I suspect the 18-24 year old patients visiting the medical marijuana dispensary are medicating for anxiety. Anxiety is a natural response to stunted careers and nonexistent relationships that accompanies being an 18-24 year old loser, with no education, no job training and few job prospects (due to hanging out in their parents’ basement smoking medical marijuana all day for half a decade).

  3. Big Truck Joe says:

    David Fergusson is a professor at the University of Otago in Christchurch, New Zealand, and he has been leading the Christchurch Health and Development Study, a 35-year, ongoing look at 1,265 New Zealanders born in 1977. He said that one analysis from his study published in the journal Addiction used a statistical test that “clearly suggest the existence of some kind of causative association in which the use of cannabis increases the likelihood that the user will go on to use other illicit drugs.” Addiction experts have shown that the use of pot is a trigger mechanism in some peoples brains to turn on addictive cravings for drugs. As long as i don’t have to pay for it, I’m cool with it but we all know I breaded pot usage will lead to a stunted zombie class of welfare suckers that the productive class will have to pay for. And a very small amount of people suffering from cancer will get their medicated marijuana and it will ease their pain.

    • Fair enough. However, people born in 1977 are still young. The Medicare population is (mostly) over 65. Are you saying there is no difference between the “stoner” and the person suffering from great pain with no other relief? Or that medical marijuana is being prescribed recklessly to “stoners”?

    • Erik says:

      Cigarettes are THE gateway drug and are still legal and much more deadly and addictive than Marijuana?

      Cigarette Companies are also the same people trying to stop the decriminalization of Marijuana as it’s bad for business.

      Isn’t it ironic.

  4. Big Truck Joe says:

    The real question is whether the introduction of increased use of marijuana in a society is a benefit or detriment?

    • Ron Greiner says:

      Joe, you better start to worry. The Florida poll:

      The survey — conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research on behalf of the United for Care campaign — found 77 percent of likely Florida voters said they supported the ballot initiative. The survey found 20 percent were opposed it it, while 3 percent of likely voters said they were undecided.

      77% is a lot, right?

  5. Big Truck Joe says:

    My fear is that the marijuana floodgates will open and everyone who has complained of headaches will find fellow empathetic pot smoking physicians who will over prescribe pot with dubious (pun intended) medical need. I do think any reasonable person would not prohibit the few number of people who require smoking marijuana from doing so (who apparently can’t find appeasement from an FDA approved pharmaceutical pill) for palliative reasons of suffering from cancer or other diagnosed ailments. But as we all know, once the barn door is open you can’t put the pot horse back in. And as I reiterate, a pot smoking society is worse off than a non-pot smoking society – not to mention the hyper hazards of second hand MJ smoke.

    • Ron Greiner says:

      Joe, same thing with beer. Look at the problems we have with beer in this country. We got rid of beer once and here it is again causing all these people with drinking problems.

      The last thing we need is a free country where people don’t go to prison for smoking weed.

      We need to start the war on beer again.

    • We have quite a few articles on the blog about opioid prescribing, which might be amenable to marijuana too. On the other hand, for those who think marijuana should be freely available, the question of prescribing it is irrelevant.