More Than 1,900 Members Participated in Poll

Twelve years after medical marijuana was legalized here in Massachusetts and with growing national attention placed on the potential healthcare benefits of the once highly stigmatized drug, Mass Retirees conducted an informal survey designed to gauge member interest in the topic. To date, 38 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis in some form.

The April survey was emailed to some 19,000 Mass Retirees members, with more than 1,900 choosing to participate. Of that number, 70% indicated that they have either tried or plan to try medical cannabis to treat chronic pain, sleep, anxiety, and arthritis. 86% of respondents shared that they are curious as to whether CBD/Cannabis would help an ongoing medical problem. In conjunction with the survey, the Association conducted an interview with Brooke Worster, MD, chief medical officer of EO Care. Dr. Worster is also the Director, Supportive Oncology at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia and completed her medical fellowship in palliative care and pain management at MGH Brigham and Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston.

According to Dr. Worster, a major focus of the use of medical cannabis and research on the topic is focused on the care and treatment of cancer patients and also those dealing with pain. She also expressed the concern within the healthcare community regarding the lack of factual information and proper use of cannabis products in medical treatment.

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These concerns were confirmed through the survey results, with 60% reporting that they have limited or no knowledge of CBD/Cannabis. And another 82% indicated that being provided product and proper care recommendations from a reliable source is valuable or very valuable. Finally, just 10% reported that they received helpful information about CBD/Cannabis from their doctor – which is something they said they want.

With the federal government having just announced the reclassification of cannabis from a Class 1 drug to Class 3, and the FDA reportedly looking at steps to regulate the drug as they do with other medications, it appears clear that the use of CBD/Cannabis for medical purposes is quickly becoming commonplace. While still a future possibility, this may also lead to the drug, in certain instances, being covered by health insurance plans.

EO Care Study: Promising Results

Initial studies around the impact of the use of medical cannabis on health care costs are promising, including one by EO Care, a Massachusetts based company. It is led by recognized healthcare, cannabis regulatory, and technology leaders/ innovators focused on helping patients navigate this new and often confusing treatment option. We note that one of its board members is Bill Van Faasen, the former head of Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA and a highly regarded healthcare industry leader.

EO Care worked with the leading healthcare cost actuary, Milliman, to estimate that physician-guided cannabis care for those dealing with pain, sleep problems, anxiety, and the effects of cancer and its treatment would reduce overall healthcare expense by 3% to 5%. In the case of older populations who deal with more of these problems than younger groups, even the 5% number may be too low an estimate. This may be the single biggest cost reducer available to the healthcare system today.

“Our members know that Mass Retirees has a long history of being at the leading edge of policies that both benefit retirees and have the potential to help contain the rising cost of healthcare without cost shifting or degrading the quality of member benefits. Knowing that more and more people are using medical marijuana, it made sense for us to gauge the thoughts and interest of our members,” explains Association CEO Shawn Duhamel. “While we believed there would be interest, we did not think the response would be as great as it was. After the survey was conducted, I heard directly from several members who wanted to share how the use of medical cannabis has benefited them or their spouse.

“We also heard from a handful of members who seemed to confuse the medical use of cannabis with recreational use. To be very clear, while recreational use of marijuana is legal in Massachusetts (currently legal in 24 states) our focus is exclusively on medical use only. However, after generations of stigma and illegality attached to cannabis, it is understandable that some members have concerns. “What is very clear from the survey results and from the direct feedback from members, is that there is a strong interest in utilizing cannabis to treat medical conditions. It is also clear that members seek reliable information and help in safely and effectively using the products. That seems to be a key component that is missing from the current retail model, where patients have little to no guidance.” To provide those members either currently using or interested in using medical cannabis with a reliable source of information and access to specific CBD/Cannabis products designed for medical use, Mass Retirees has opted to work directly with EO Care to offer a discounted service to Association members. Mass Retirees will continue to closely monitor this quickly evolving topic and will report to members in future editions of The Voice, as well is within our weekly email reports and at area meetings.

If you’d like to learn more about EO and responsible medical cannabis use or get a free, clinician-created Care Plan (based on your use goals, relevant aspects of your medical record and your daily schedule), please visit or call 888-823-6143.

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