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Utah in the Weeds Bonus Episode - Two Important Medical Cannabis Updates

What to Expect in This Episode

Utah Therapeutic Health Center founder Tim Pickett, PA-C provides two important Medical Cannabis updates in this bonus episode of Utah in the Weeds.

Tim talks about Uplift, UT THC's new patient subsidy program, which aims to expand access to Medical Cannabis for patients facing financial challenges. The goal with Uplift is to raise enough money to subsidize the clinic costs for Medical Cannabis evaluations for at least 10 patients each month.

UT THC and its partners—Deseret Wellness, Beehive Farmacy, WholesomeCo, and Zion Medicinal—will match each donation to Uplift, multiplying those donations by six. Donation matching is capped at $1,000/month for each partner.

The second update Tim talks about is a new regulation from the Utah Department of Health, which makes a Medical Cannabis patient's 90-day follow-up appointment optional. Although our complimentary 90-day visit is no longer mandatory, UT THC still recommends one for new patients as it helps them dial in their cannabis therapy.

Podcast Transcript

Tim Pickett:
Welcome everybody out to Utah in the Weeds. I am your host, Tim Pickett, and this is a podcast about cannabis, medical cannabis, and cannabis culture here in Utah and beyond. Thank you for subscribing to the podcast on any podcast player that you get your podcasts delivered on. Be sure to stay tuned on, Discover Marijuana on YouTube as well. The channel name is, Discover Marijuana, it's a great place to get educational video content about cannabis, cannabis strains, different conditions, delivery forms, all of that stuff. We post our podcast not only to the podcast players, but also on YouTube. There's a couple of podcasts that have some video and you can watch those, or you can listen there on YouTube on Discover Marijuana. Also, we post these podcasts in transcript form as well as a summary on Utahmarijuana.org/podcast. Again, Utahmarijuana.org/podcast.

Tim Pickett:
Today's episode is a short one. It's a couple of serious, I think, updates that you should be aware of, especially if you're are involved or want to get involved in this medical cannabis program here in Utah. A thank you and an announcement, to get right to it, that we're going to be taking a little bit of a break for a couple of weeks through the holiday season with Utah in the Weeds, so it'll give you a chance to catch up on previous episodes and check out the Discover Marijuana YouTube, and make some comments and questions and get ready for the new year.

Tim Pickett:
The first announcement that I'd like to talk about is Uplift. Uplift is our subsidy program for the Utah medical cannabis program, so to speak. It's a really special program and it was designed and implemented by one of our own at Utah Therapeutic Health Center. Lissa Reed has really championed this program, put it together, and we are just a part of it. Let me explain the Uplift subsidy program.

Tim Pickett:
One of the big complaints that patients and people throughout the state have been really targeting this program with is that it's too costly for patients to access medical cannabis. One of those complaints has been around provider fees and evaluation fees. For example, at Utah Therapeutic Health Center, it's a $250 office visit fee to have an evaluation and create that scenario where you can be evaluated for a medical cannabis patient. There have been a lot of reports that people are charging between 300 and even up to $600 for those evaluations. Now, I worked in a specialty medical service where our office visit fee was $320 for a new patient visit. That's where this comes from, all offices, all medical clinics charge a fee. Most of them that you are familiar with is the copay. The office will bill the insurance the full price, and the patient will then be responsible for the copay. That makes a very nice system. It does not make the evaluation any less cost, somebody has to pay. You, really, the consumer or the patient really end up paying through that insurance premium that you pay. Regardless of all of that, it's expensive. A lot of people don't have an HSA or a health savings account to make those payments.

Tim Pickett:
In order to get access to medical cannabis here, there are some really strict guidelines for medicine and medical review, things like that, so there's this fee. Like I say, a lot of people can't afford that, so Uplift comes into play. It is a patient donation matching program. We have established a landing page and a information page at utahmarijuana.org/uplift. You can go there and you can learn about this Uplift program and even make an online donation. When patients come into our clinic or online, they can make an additional small donation, say it's a dollar, say it's $4.20 cents, that's a popular donation amount, a fun amount there. When you donate $4.20 cents, then Utah Therapeutic Health Center matches that $4.20 cents. Deseret Wellness matches it. Zion Medicinal matches it. Beehive Zone Pharmacy matches it. WholesomeCo out of Bountiful matches it. Now you have a six X donation and you started out with $4.20 cents. Now you ended up with six times that amount.

Tim Pickett:
All of that money gets put towards clinic evaluations for patients, patients who are eligible, terminally ill patients, and patients with low income. For now, right now, those patients, we needed a very objective way to establish income levels and so Medicaid in Utah, because that's a program that services low income individuals here in Utah, Medicaid eligibility is a good place to start. That application, again, goes up on December 20th for patients to apply to get their medical cannabis screening and evaluation education, all of that clinical side covered through the Uplift program. Shout out to these partners, again, I'm going to mention them. WholesomeCo out of Bountiful, Beehive Zone Pharmacy out of West Salt Lake West Valley, Deseret Wellness, Provo and in Park City, and Zion Medicinal, where you can find those products in any of those pharmacies. Again, those partners are key, really, because it's a pool of those funds in order to help these patients in need. Nobody else is really doing this in a transparent way. All of this is very transparent on our website, on that page where you can see how much patient donations we've had and how much matching money we've had. We are going to make sure that all of that money goes into seeing patients who absolutely need access to medical cannabis.

Tim Pickett:
I do think it's a little ironic that you have a program that was designed for terminally ill and low income individuals in a lot of ways, and they have had trouble accessing the product and accessing the clinical services. Hopefully this puts a real dent in that discrepancy in the program, where we need to get access for people for, for everybody. That's Uplift. Stay tuned, we'll have more information on that as we go. We'll announce every month how much money we've donated, how many people we've helped. Every month that'll be up to date.

Tim Pickett:
The second thing that I want to talk about is this 90 day renewal. There was a legislative change last legislative session in 2020, go back and listen to the hour episode with Rich Oborn, on the legislative updates. Part of those updates was that the 90 day evaluation was going away. What I mean by that is every patient who needs a medical cannabis card in Utah is going to get their initial evaluation and recommendation, their initial card was good for 90 days. 90 days after their initial card was issued, it would expire and they needed to chat with a medical provider and have a renewal of that medical card. This was an opportunity for providers to check in with the patient, make sure they were doing okay. Check in and making sure the dosing and delivery options that were available to the patient were fine. Really, a good, I thought in my opinion, this was a good idea, but what happened originally was this was... To go even back further in time, this was actually a 30 day requirement, but 30 days didn't seem to work very logistically. It just was too fast to get a patient a card and then 30 days later have to follow up with them. Too much. Just really, it was really hard for patients and providers and it didn't really work out, so they moved it to 90 days.

Tim Pickett:
Here's what happened. A lot of providers in these medical card clinics were charging upfront for their fee and then charging for the 90 day, and then six months later charging for the six month visit. Then of course, again, charging and charging. That 90 day just didn't seem fair to have patients pay. There was some advocating done on behalf of Utah patients and whether it's good or bad or ugly, they removed the requirement for the 90 day in the statute. Problem with that one was the EVS system had to be upgraded and changed in order to make the software work, and that took a little while longer than the Department of Health had anticipated. That's ready to go now and going to be launched.

Tim Pickett:
If you got your card yesterday, the day before this was implemented, then you would get a 90 day expiration. You would then check in with your QMP and you would have a renewal. You would pay $5 for that renewal at the state. If your QMP charged for that visit, then you'd have to pay that. If your QMP... like, we don't for that 90 day, you would not have to pay. At that point in time, you would get an additional six month card. From your original card to the time you actually needed to see a QMP on telemedicine or in person would be a total of nine months.

Tim Pickett:
Now let's say you get your card tomorrow, and there is no 90 day. You get your card today. It's issued by the Department of Health and the expiration date is now six months away. There's no 90 day. There's no three month interval for the original, the first card. They've just eliminated that entire thing, and they've just made your first card last six months. After that six months, your card is going to be renewed and issued for an additional six months. At that 12 month mark, you can then be evaluated and the QMP can make a determination at that point. Once you have had a card for 12 months, you can have a renewal for up to one year based on that QMP's recommendation.

Tim Pickett:
Now, a lot of states have an annual renewal period for their medical cannabis programs. I support that as a QMP and a medical cannabis specialist. I think a year is reasonable for people who are stable on their dosing and delivery. They understand it. They're not intimidated anymore. They're not changing their medications all of the time, or through this time, and a one year renewal period is reasonable, especially because you're having to pay for these visits. I just don't know that it's fair to have a patient come in... In fact, I'll tell you straight up, it's not fair to have a patient come in more frequently just so you as a provider can make more money. That's unethical. You really, as a provider, we have to do these things based on what is best for the patient, not what is best for our car payment and our income. That's me on my soapbox a little bit, but that's just ethical medical behavior. I think providers would agree. Again, you get a card yesterday in Utah, you're going to be issued a three month card. At that renewal you're going to be issued another six months there. Tomorrow, you get issued a card, there is no 90 day window. You're going to be issued a card and that initial card is going to be good for six months.

Tim Pickett:
What about these people who are right in this window? Let's say I go to a place and they charge for the 90 day, and I saw them on Wednesday when the 90 day was still in place. Well, there you go. You're going to have to pay that 90 day renewal fee in order to get that card renewed. They're just turning it off on the day. Whatever day they implement this, the cards will just be issued for six months, just like that. There's no going back. There's no changing in anything. It's a very straightforward way to do this. There is some advantages, I guess, to being involved in the non-90 day window, just getting into a six month card. That is, you're going to be quicker, you're three months ahead to go to that annual visit, you're three months ahead. You can get it at 12 months instead of waiting a total of 15 months to get that annual renewal. That's good news.

Tim Pickett:
For patients of ours, at Utah Therapeutic Health Center, you're not going to really have much... You won't see much change in our services. We're still going to check in with patients at 90 days. You know why? Because it's the right thing to do, in my opinion. I'm the medical director, I'm the one who's making those decisions, and we're going to check in with all of our patients at that 90 day. We want to make sure that that medication is working. We want to make sure that you are having access to the products that help you feel better, that you're reducing your other medication use. Like I say, I think if your provider offers a 90 day check-in for free, then absolutely take it. Treat this like medicine and be involved with providers who are helping you just like they'd help any other of their patients.

Tim Pickett:
That is the second update for the podcast today, is that 90 day going away here in Utah.

Tim Pickett:
Next is holiday updates. We had a tremendous success in November about our YouTube giveaway program. We gave away a PAX complete kit, we gave away tons of product, tons of medicine with our partners. We doubled our subscribers on the YouTube channel. It was phenomenal. I didn't know that you could be so active as a community, so thank you. Thank you for that. I'm glad we're reaching more people.

Tim Pickett:
Stay tuned to Utah in the Weeds. In the future we'll have more guests. I love this podcast. It's become very near and dear to my heart as far as the project goes. I learn a lot. If you have somebody who you feel like would be a good guest, or if you want to come on the podcast, reach out to us. No question we would love to have you. We'd love to hear your stories. Specifically, I think next year, you can look for more podcast guests around the DEA and opioid prescribing, and digging into how to mix medicine. Why are there not a lot of providers who are doing medication management and cannabis? What is it about the DEA that restricts cannabis, or how about this opioid epidemic? Is it getting better as cannabis expands in the US? What does it look like from a federal legislation standpoint? Where are we at with that?

Tim Pickett:
Of course, there'll be legislative updates in the spring when the legislative session gets going. We also are going to have a special report about secondary conditions on the podcast. That is going to share some data that we're collecting on you, anonymously. Your anonymous responses to how you are using medical cannabis, not only for your qualifying condition, but for other conditions that you may have. Because we know patients are using it for some mental health issues, anxiety and depression specifically are just very common secondary uses for people to use medical cannabis. There'll be a lot more discussion on that in the new year. Hopefully we can expand the listenership and, expand and expand people who are helped and informed by the podcast.

Tim Pickett:
Lots of words there. I'm Tim Pickett. Thanks for subscribing. Again, Discover Marijuana on YouTube, reach out, comment on any of those videos. Be sure you're subscribed to the podcast on any podcast player that you have access to.

Tim Pickett:
Shout out to Chris Holifield. Thanks, Chris. Merry Christmas to you. No question, you started us off and could not have done this without you. Chris is involved in real estate and as I like to call him, he's the Reefer Realtor. If you have any real estate needs, then absolutely Chris Holifield should be your first call.

Tim Pickett:
Thanks everybody. Stay safe out there.

 

By UtahMarijuana.org
Published December 20, 2021
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