As if Covid-19 wasn't enough of a burden on American households and health care. Telemedicine was thought to make seeing a doctor easier, safer and more affordable. Unfortunately that's not the case for some patients that end up paying more than they should and getting less treatment or attention from their Physician. When the federal government removed the restrictions on telemedicine many out of state clinics went virtual. This allowed them to practice in other states online via telemedicine. It's not a bad idea by any means. I mean isn't access the first step and a cannabis advocates goal? Sure, but let's talk about what's really going on here with cannabis telemedicine. First you should know, a Physician certification which is the paper you go to the doctor for when trying to obtain a medical cannabis card, is valid for 3 years in Illinois unless your Physician revokes your card or you yourself cancel the card. 3 years. Follow up with your Physician, maintain your relationship, pay the state fee and for 3 years you will be a medical cannabis patient. So what's the issue here? Yearly fees for a state program are already in place. IDPH charges yearly fees to hold the card. I should mention they recently reduced these fees to make it more affordable and accessible. So why should your doctors be charging yearly fees? When you go to a doctors office you pay a copay and you might pay for prescriptions right? Right. Do you pay a yearly fee for the visit you had a year ago? NO. You might pay for prescription refills or a follow up visit but I should mention, a certification of diagnosis is not a prescription here in Illinois. Out of state clinics don't even have the terminology correct and It's "TeleMedicine" that is enabling these guys. $250 every year is the going rate these out of state clinics are charging patients They do not tell you it's a yearly fee until your in the door. To Medical Cannabis Doctors this screams "profits over patients". We can not stay silent. An evaluation for a certification should cost $250-$300 one time and a lesser follow up visit fee to maintain your relationship with the certifying Physician. Not hundreds of dollars every year for a state regulated certification that the state of Illinois says is valid for 3 years. Basically, if I don't give my doctor the cash every year, he takes the certification back. To Medical Cannabis Doctors, this practice is unethical and is the exact opposite of our mission. What is that mission? Since 2016 our mission has been to make you a registered Illinois medical cannabis patient, drive down the high costs associated with obtaining a medical card and provide awareness and cannabis education to the citizens of Illinois. So forgive us for getting a little upset when a virtual "for profit doctor" decides to come into our state and rip off the people of Illinois. When we started helping patients in 2016, the cost to see a doctor, get certified and maintain that relationship was roughly $625 for the 3 years duration of the certification. We went to work! Putting every dollar of funding into creating and promoting awareness, finding "patient over profit" physicians and driving down the high cost of all the other clinics while offering more services at our own clinic, more education, and strengthening the Physician-patient relationship everywhere with our provider education. We did it! The cost of getting a card went from over $625 down to $450 and now down to $375. What is the cost now of these out of state clinics? Over $750 just for the 3 year certification and another $125 to the state of Illinois. That's over $1000 when all is said and done. The cost at Medical Cannabis Doctors in Villa Park remains the same, $250 for the clinic visit that gives patients a 3 year certification, you never pay a follow up visit fee, visit your Physician when you want to and as of June 22 2021 it's only $125 for the 3 year state fee. Totaling $375 for 3 years to have an Illinois medical cannabis card. Telemedicine is a beautiful thing and it's probably not going anywhere. Be sure to do your research. Some questions you might ask before seeing another clinic are, do they charge follow up visit fees? If not, do they even offer state mandated follow up visits? If not, then they probably aren't in compliance with state law and you will be at risk of losing your medical card. Is the fee you are paying a yearly fee? Why? if the state says the cert is valid for 3 years. Do they even have a physical location? Where is the Physician practicing? How well versed is the Physician on medical cannabis? Is the virtual doc HIPAA compliant? Be leary of where you spend your money and do your research. Call around, talk to advocates, patients, dispensaries and people on social media. Read the reviews!
This is from the desk of an MCD cannabis advocate.