According to Barmer, one of the largest statutory health insurers in Germany, the great “cannabis hype” is over – but is this really the truth?
If you are the CEO of Barmer, one of the largest German health insurers, it is easy to look at numbers and be copacetic about the cannabis status quo. Indeed, CEO Christoph Straub has made the headlines in Germany of late, proclaiming that the “big hype about cannabis seems to be over.”
Straub attributes the drop in applications to a “more targeted use.”
But is this really true?
Even five years ago, about 40% of applications were being summarily denied. The fastest way to get such approvals was, certainly for this population of patients, to sue their insurers.
The reality is that the insurers are not really on the front lines of approvals. The MDK, a state-by-state entity is actually still the last word on approvals. And they are still singing the same old tune.
The MDK is Ignoring the Latest Medical Studies
Patients who have had to struggle to first find doctors and then submit their applications through the system have a different perspective than a self-satisfied (non-sick) corporate executive.
Even when they have multiple doctors writing letters for their approvals, the MDK is more intent on turning down patients than approving them, and in particular, citing studies that are often outdated.
They are insulated by the insurance companies, who are themselves pointing fingers at the MDK.
Straub himself told Deutsche Apotheke, one of the larger professional zines in Germany that “further studies will be needed to better understand the complex mechanisms of action of cannabis and to integrate them into individual treatment concepts.”
However, as many patients will attest, even when they or their doctors include cutting-edge studies in their applications, these are ignored by the MDK committees of “experts” who have little interest in changing the way severely ill patients are treated, and even more certainly, with cannabis.
A Catch 22
Patients right now are caught in a terrible trap. They can decide to sidestep the process of approvals altogether and just go to a private doctor. However, this, along with the cost of prescriptions, makes this option completely unappealing if not financially feasible. What it does prove, however, is that the MDK has a different standard for treating the seriously ill than frontline doctors.
Beyond this, patients often still have to turn to the black market – and this obviously is dangerous and almost as expensive. Growing your own remains highly hazardous.
Regardless, it is clear that health insurers and the MDKs beyond this have managed to essentially stop the medical cannabis revolution in its tracks. The only way for the industry to grow and patients to gain at least legal protection that comes with decriminalization is through full and final reform.