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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

Disability Insurance Observer: Marijuana

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The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) is going to liven up the annual conference it’s holding in Las Vegas by adding a session on the effects of legalized marijuana in the workplace. DMEC organized the session in response to successful efforts to make recreational use of marijuana legal in Washington state and efforts by an activist group to get use of marijuana legalized in the District of Columbia.

One thought is that, generally, disability insurance works so well — even though it faces many of the same sorts of awareness and investment climate challenges that plague the long-term care insurance (LTCI) community — that people with an interest in disability insurance often have to stretch hard to find something to new to talk about.

The usual honest headline of the week for disability insurance would be, “It’s still here, it still costs about what it cost last year, and people are still in denial about the risk of disability.”

But another thought is that, assuming, as marijuana supporters say, using marijuana recreationally is no worse than using alcohol or cigarettes: It could actually be a problem for employers and disability insurers, just as alcohol, tobacco and other legal substances are. Use of sugar is completely legal, but it’s not good for disability claims.

People often point to the Prohibition Era as an example of the harm an effort to ban alcohol use did to the social fabric, but it seems likely that Prohibition was actually good for disability insurers: Economists reported in 2003 that Prohibition may have reduced the cirrhosis rate by about 10 percent to 20 percent.

Maybe one good move for the insurance industry would be to try to make sure any bills or ballot initiatives that seek to legalize recreational use of marijuana include provisions permitting employers to consider recreational marijuana use when making employment decisions and insurers to consider recreational marijuana use when considering applicants for disability insurance and other health-related insurance products.


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