Image of Maria Todd
An expert in managed care and insurance benefits, she teaches health care providers across the U.S. how to work with insurers, and insurers how to collaborate with physicians, hospitals and other health service organizations.
Todd is also a certified mediator and health law paralegal, who is called in by healthcare professionals to help resolve benefits and claims disputes.
She is also CEO of the Mercury Advisory group – a consultancy she started in 1983 and that currently has about 100 independent consultants – that works as a referral system on related health care and health tourism issues. Todd spoke to WeedWorthy in Denver.

What is the overall state of health care industry? Where is it working and failing?

 It’s an industry full of silos and turf battles. When you add the silos and the turf battles to political agendas and capitalism, you have a recipe that leaves the guy who needs it the most, Joe Consumer, out. He doesn’t know how to navigate this squirrely system anymore. There are so many hoops to jump through that the average person just gives up and says ‘screw it, I’ll delay’ – until they become so acutely sick that they can’t wait any more. And then they don’t have the energy to get through the hazing of accessing healthcare. 

Can you talk about the healthcare industry’s approach to cannabis? Is it on the industry’s radar right now? 

I can only tell you from personal experience what I’ve come across with physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers, which is a mixed bag. It’s an accurate reflection of what’s going on in the marketplace, in that you have some doctors that are open-minded, embrace it and want to know more -- but don’t know where to learn more about marijuana and the medicinal properties of it. And you have others who don’t want to believe in it. 
So you’ve got these two sides fighting each other, and the science is actually there. The science of cannabinoids, beneficence and effectiveness is there, and has been worked on for decades, but nobody knows it, because of the laws that are in place to prohibit clinical trials and other things. So things have to get done in the cloak of darkness. Researchers in Spain and Israel have been doing studies but they can’t openly show the clinical trials.

Are there doctors in these healthcare systems that are prescribing marijuana?

I’ve not heard of one that has written a prescription on a prescription form. Most of them simply just approve your (state-approved medical marijuana) red cards, and then it’s up to you to do your own due diligence, research and possibly find a budtender with whom you have established a rapport, who can explain the properties of what they sell. Do you know whether that’s accurate or not? No. 

How unusual is that now, compared to a couple of years ago?

I think the openness and the acceptance of it has increased a great amount. A percentage, I don’t know. But I notice that in speaking with physicians to the extent that I do a lot more of them, a much greater number, are willing to write the prescription.

What sort of guidance are physicians within these healthcare systems getting regarding medical marijuana? Is there any sort of policy that’s coming out from management?

From the physicians that I’ve asked, they’re starving for information. They have no guidance. It’s up to them to learn, if they want to, what the benefits are and what types of cannabinoids work from one condition to another. 
The doctors, from a professional liability standpoint in their medical malpractice insurance, are afraid to prescribe what we call a SIG. That’s where they say, ‘take two of these in the morning and two in the afternoon,’ because that prescribing level, that granularity, could get them in trouble. 
Whereas if they simply sign the form and let you go and do your own thing with a red card, they don’t have the same liability. On the form, they’re diagnosing that you have a condition that qualifies for (medical marijuana), not that they know how to treat it (laughs).

Click Here for Part 2:  Convincing doctors and the healthcare industry that there’s a place for medical marijuana

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