Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care and RIP Ted

It's the morning after publishing this post and I just learned of the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. Because of his commitment to health care for all, I think it's more important than ever that we pass the best health insurance reform we can.

This one goes under the heading of WTF.

Because of the rising costs of premiums, my employer has decided to switch health insurance carriers. Because I live in Massachusetts where insurance companies aren't allowed to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, I wasn't worried about my MS treatment being covered.

But this is insurance we're talking about.

To help us with the transition, we had an information session with HR and representatives from the new insurance company. Just before the meeting, I learned that my boss was a little pissed off that he would still have to pay a $150 co-pay for an MRI. "Still?" I inquired since I've had several MRIs since I began working there and I haven't paid anything for a co-pay. We both assumed it was because his MRI was ordered after an injury and mine were used to determine my course of treatment for MS.

During the question and answer period of the information session, I raised my hand and asked the insurance rep if they waived the MRO co-pay for people with a diagnosed neurological condition...say...Multiple Sclerosis?

The rep told me she would check and let the HR department know the answer.

Well, today I got the answer and here it is, directly cut and pasted from an email from the insurance company:

Q - Would we exclude the MRI HTI copayment for members with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis?
The only exception listed is for members with a current cancer diagnosis. Each and every claim must be billed with the cancer diagnosis in order for the HTI copay to be waived. The copayment would apply in all other circumstances.

The good news is that my boss is taking this to a higher level--more evidence that I work for a compassionate organization and not an evil insurance company.

This recent event made the following video and the ongoing health insurance reform debate even more relevant to me as a person with MS. I sincerely hope that Congress has the good sense to keep the public health insurance option.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Several of my fellow MS bloggers have already noted this important news about Canadian researchers finding a treatment called GIFT 15 that has successfully reversed MS in mice. Thanks, everyone who I've already forgotten about because I'm on my first day post Solumedrol infusion and I'm a little sleep deprived. You know who you are and you rock as news breakers. With this one, I'm going to play like Fox News. I am taking the news item, plagiarizing your work, twisting it with sensational graphics so I can not feel so bad about being scooped. :-)

Here are all the links I could find to articles about this research. I won't try to restate what has been reported by professionals who, hopefully, do all the fact checking I have no time or concentration abilities to do right now:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health Care Reform and MS

If you have MS or love someone who does, I urge you to pay attention to what's going on with National Health Insurance Reform. This issue affects all Americans, but for those those of us who live with chronic, potentially progressive diseases, it could mean the difference between getting and keeping health insurance so we can receive the proper treatment and having to choose between paying for the meds that keep us well and silly little things like rent, food, and utilities.

Regular readers know that I make no secret of my support of President Barack Obama--before and after the election. On this topic, though, I have to tell you that I wish he, his advisers, and Congress could do more.The name alone, Health Insurance Reform, is quite quite a step down from Health CARE Reform. Health CARE includes more than just insurance. Health CARE should include alternative medicine, palliative care, health education, pharmaceutical funding and drug pricing, embryonic and adult stem cell and other research funding, and much much more.

But I digress.

I'm not 100% thrilled with the plan or happy about what it's left out, but I'm afraid if we hold out for something perfect, we will--once again--miss out on the opportunity to make real change in people's lives. Sometimes change has to happen incrementally. I believe the current plan is a good start and, rather than reinvent the wheel, I will use the words from and email I received from David Axelrod, Senior Adviser to the President. I know some people in pretty high places, huh? Me and the other 500,000 people on the distribution list.

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage
  1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
  2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
  3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
  4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
  5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
  6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
  7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
  8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.
Learn more and get details:

8 common myths about health insurance reform
  1. Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It's a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
  2. We can't afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It's a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
  3. Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It's a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
  4. Vets' health care is safe and sound: It's a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
  5. Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It's a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
  6. Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It's myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
  7. You can keep your own insurance: It's myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
  8. No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you - and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.
Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now
  1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults - 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market - were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more:
  2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more:
  3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women's reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more:
  4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more:
  5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured - 13 million people - are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more:
  6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more:
  7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more:
  8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more:
Visit to see video responses to the incredibly vicious and insidious attacks on this important legislation. And, if you don't know how to reach your elected officials, click here and let them know how very important it is to pass Health Insurance Reform now. It really is that important.

It's That Time of the Month

Naaaaa. This is not a post about menstruation, although I'm chuckling at the looks of horror on the faces of the few men who read my blog.

Today was my monthly visit to the Partners MS Center's Infusion Clinic for my Solumedrol infusion. I both like and dislike these visits. Here's why.

  • I get a burst of energy after the Solumedrol infusion and don't feel like I'm an active heroin addict nodding at my computer. I tend to do a lot of writing at these times and catch up on my On Demand TV viewing.
  • I get to listen to all the interesting conversions of the 10 or so other MS patients and their friends, family, and the nursing staff at the Infusion Clinic
  • They have free coffee and wireless at the Infusion Clinic.
  • Other patients choose to watch TV rather than read, talk, or surf online and they sometimes have their TVs on way too loud tuned in to really, really, stupid daytime television shows.
  • I sometimes have to listen to loud, stupid conversations like the woman who sat next to me this morning who kept spelling her name (T-E-R-R-I) for the older, apparently deaf woman in the next recliner.
  • I usually see at least a few people who have advanced MS and are a lot more disabled than I am and I worry about the future. Today, I saw a 20something woman helping her mother with her walker tothe bathroom. I really doubt Ruby or I would enjoy that experience.
Good and bad, the infusions seem to be keeping a serious relapse at bay and for that I am grateful.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Saying Goodbye to My Car

I arranged for Vehicle Donations to pick up my car today. They promised to come before Wednesday. It's been sitting idle and unregistered in the driveway since I stopped driving in November and my landlord asked me about it today.'s time. But, it's also sad. Very, very sad.

In addition to acknowledging that my MS-related optic neuritis has taken away my ability to drive, donating my car also means accepting the fact that I am no longer a Volvo-driving soccer mom. And I can't even give you an embedded version of the Everclear video either. It is not a good day.

I will now play the Pollyanna Glad Game and focus on the positive:
  • I got my bike buddy this weekend so Zane will be able to ride behind me (on very safe streets and wide bike paths) which means the kids and I can go on longer trips that don't increase our carbon footprint.
  • Without the car in the way, Ruby and Zane will be able to sled down the length of the driveway when it snows this winter.
  • By donating my car, I'm contributing money to WBUR, my local NPR station, and will get a tax write-off for 2009.
  • I am fully embracing the car-less lifestyle and have even decided to protest the proposed public transportation rate hike on my other blog.
Farewell, my beloved Volvo. You will be missed.

(8/11/09 Update: They towed it away today and I cried...after sneaking this picture so the tow truck driver wouldn't think I was a complete dork. It's another loss--not just of the hunk of metal but of the independence that driving brought me. Although it also brought me a lot of stress once my vision started to deteriorate--see the dent on the front left quarter panel? I know I need to stay in the day but I can't help but wonder if this is the last car I will ever own.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Itchy Feet

Ok. I once had numb feet for a couple of weeks. I believe it was after my dad died so I assumed it was an MS symptom brought on by stress. I'm not feeling any more stressed out than usual now but I seem to have itchy feet. Not to be gross or anything, but there is no rash or fungus or anything surface going on. It feels like a subcutaneous precursor to the numb feet which kind of sucks.

I've been chosen to be one of the paid MS video bloggers for this new pharma company website that will not require me to pimp myself for any particular drug. It's kind of exciting. Just waiting for the contract and then a camera crew will show up at my house to get me set up and shoot the first few blog posts. I hope the itchy feet will not be too distracting to them or to me. I once had a boss that picked her toes during meetings in her office. It was really rather gross. I wonder if I can find a way to surreptitiously scratch my feet during the video shoot. A sisal rug maybe?