Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Health care reform - what does it mean for you?

Come 2014, our health care landscape is going to look very different for people with MS. You can no longer be denied insurance coverage for your pre-existing condition, many of you will have limits on your out-of-pocket costs, and you could even get low-cost or even free health plans. Why? The Affordable Care Act will come into full effect.

Sounds great on the surface, but what does it really mean for YOU? We are starting to see some opportunities to learn more about these changes and we'll see many more in the months ahead. The National MS Society will be hosting a teleconference in early October aimed at the parts of the health care law most important to people with MS. We also have a great website geared towards getting you the information you need to know. is another great resource for you. In many states, that's the new place you'll go to purchase affordable health insurance. In Washington, HealthPlanFinder will be your source to find, compare, and enroll in health insurance.

When you are purchasing health insurance, here are a few things for you to watch for:

  • Make sure your neurologist is in your plan's network
  • Check to make sure your MS drugs are covered
  • Understand your total costs, including deductibles and cost-sharing - not just premiums
Purchasing health insurance can be confusing. and HealthPlanFinder will make it easier, but we encourage you to contact us if you have questions or are concerned about getting the best plan for you. We can help. Call the National MS Society at 800-344-4867. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Never give up on medical research!

Why should we never give up on medical research? It's not just cures, cures, cures. It's jobs, jobs, jobs!

In his weekly column in The Week, former U.S. Senator Bill Frist cites the National MS Society as a leader in funding medical research and argues that we can't let up on our funding for medical research. The need is too great, and with increasing competition abroad, we need to keep investing in medical research in the United States to find a cure for diseases like MS and cancer. This applies to federal funding allocated by Congress, private industry like pharmaceutical companies, and especially community organizations like the National MS Society.

Bill Frist knows quite a bit about medical research and why advocates must continue to be strong in the face of adversity. He's a heart surgeon and served as the Senate Majority Leader from 2003 to 2007. His column particularly emphasizes the economic benefits of medical research - a perspective that I think is useful for MS Activists to know and understand.

With a tough economy and a political environment that seems to favor jobs over all else (including the environment, consumers, taxpayers, and health), MS Activists need to be able to speak the language of politicians if they want to have the maximum impact. Like anyone who works in sales knows - you have to understand your customer. Politicians want to talk about jobs, so let's talk to them about jobs. Medical research = jobs. Medical research = putting people back to work. Medical research = a winning issue for politicians (and a cure for MS!).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Help us make sure the health care law works for people with MS

People with MS often have a difficult time finding a good health insurance plan that is affordable and comprehensive. Too often, plans either cost way too much or don't cover your MS drugs. Luckily, help is on the way. 

The Affordable Care Act created a new way for people to compare and purchase health insurance that fits your budget and meets your needs. The Marketplace (also known as an exchange) will allow you to fill out one application and you'll be able to compare plans based on price, benefits, and quality. 

To make sure the Marketplace (called HealthPlanFinder in Washington) works for people with MS, we need some people who are willing to be "user testers" of the new website. You'll have a chance to make sure that the particular needs of people with MS are considered. If this interests you, please let me know at or (206) 284-4254, ext 40237. We are looking for testers available August 5-9 and 12-16. You'll need to travel to Olympia for a three hour session. 

Healthplanfinder will open October 1, with coverage starting January 1, 2014. Individuals outside of Washington can find their exchange at

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Congressional support for increased MS research grows

At the end of June, ten MS Activists met with Congressman Derek Kilmer to ask him for increased funding for MS research. They shared their personal stories, and by doing so, recruited a new ally to the MS movement. Read on to see what Rep. Kilmer had to say about the visit in his e-newsletter to his constituents:

"This week I met with the Greater Northwest Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society on Bainbridge Island. In the meeting I heard from a group of people living with MS all of whom had unique stories ranging from a teenage girl who faces occasional paralysis to a senior citizen who faces considerable challenges on a daily basis.

I joined the Congressional Multiple Sclerosis Caucus because the federal government has an important role to play to tackle challenges related to MS. First, Congress should continue to fund MS research to prevent the occurrence, slow progression, and lessen the symptoms of the disease. 

Second, Congress should continue working to ensure access to appropriate treatment, alternative therapies, and pain relief for those with MS so that they can live more comfortable and productive lives.

Additionally, Congress must support funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Program to ensure family caregivers have the support they need. And finally, Congress needs to continue to give these issues the attention they deserve. That’s why the advocacy of groups like the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is so important."
The meeting is a great example of MS Activists reaching out to a politician and asking for help to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis. Rep. Kilmer was elected to Congress this year to represent Bainbridge, NW Tacoma and the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas. It's pretty impressive that he came out so strongly in favor of our issues. Thank you to the MS Activists who made that possible!