KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Round Up: Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries; Insurance Discounts For Wellness; Florida’s Pain Clinic Oversight Legislation

Hundreds of new medical marijuana dispensaries have cropped up in Denver, Boulder and other Colorado cities, causing the state to stop accepting walk-up applications from people seeking cards that allow them to buy the plant, CNBC/USA Today reports. Would-be medical-marijuana consumers will now have to mail in their applications. "The changes are necessary due to the explosive growth in the number of medical marijuana applications," said a state health official. "Denver has some 250 dispensary storefronts and Boulder, Colo., has more than 100. So far, the state has issued more than 66,000 cards that allow holders to purchase medical pot. Card demand is so high that there's a six-month waiting period." The official said the health department received 270 applications per day in 2009. By February, the number had leapt to 1000 (Reuteman, 4/20).

The Denver Post: Meanwhile, a bill under consideration in the Colorado legislature would allow health insurance discounts "for improvements such as losing weight or cutting cholesterol" and "could lead to a system where co-workers with the same coverage pay different premiums based on their health." Health insurers in Colorado can now reward people for losing weight, participating in wellness programs or smoking-cessation ones, but the new legislation would allow insurers to codify them. "The legislation, House Bill 1160, would affect small businesses - those with 50 employees or fewer - and people who buy insurance individually. Large companies already can offer such incentive-based discounts under federal law. The legislation initially riled advocates for people with disabilities, including mental illness and multiple sclerosis, because they feared those people would lose out on discounts. An amendment to the proposal says that if people with disabilities - weak hearts, bad backs or other issues - give their insurance company a doctor's note explaining they can't participate, they can receive the same discount as other employees" (Brown, 4/20). 

(Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel: A plan in Florida to "rein in rouge pain clinics blamed for widespread prescription drug abuse" is languishing as lawmakers search for an accord on bills aimed at regulating the clinics. "All sides agree that more must be done to control the 900-plus pain clinics in the state - with Broward and Palm Beach counties the main center. Police say some clinics are supplying millions of narcotic pills per month to drug dealers and addicts across the Southeast." One bill would force clinics to be regulated and to hire only doctors with special training. A different version would force a doctor to be approved by state officials before dispensing drugs in such clinics (LaMendola and Wyman, 4/19).

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