Wednesday, May 2, 2012


MS activist Melanie Rowen recently provided eloquent and compelling testimony before the California State Assembly Committee on Health about difficulties affording her MS disease modifying therapy. She was there advocating for AB 1800, a bill that would help people like her and so many others facing exorbitant out-of-pocket (OOP) costs for drugs to manage her disease and its symptoms. Assembly member Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) introduced the bill and it is co-sponsored by the National MS Society’s California Action Network and the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition Health Access. 
Melanie lives with MS and testified, “When I first called to order my medication, I learned that my insurance plan required me to pay 30 percent of the price - my monthly cost for that one medication alone ended up averaging about $800. And that was only one of my medical expenses.” Melanie is not alone. Most people with MS are prescribed one of the “disease modifying therapies,” but also take four to six other medications to ease symptoms and help stay as healthy and independent as possible. Four MS therapies are routinely positioned among the top 12 drugs most often found on what’s known as the “specialty tier” that subjects individuals to a 25 to 33% co-insurance. Specialty tier drugs can range from $17,000 to $40,000, with some medications costing more than $100,000 per year. 

AB 1800 would help limit out-of-pocket costs for individuals like Melanie and would help them predict their annual medical expenses. Specifically, it would establish a single deductible for all covered health care benefits and an annual cap of $5,950 for individuals and $11,900 for families on all OOP costs for covered benefits. The OOP cap will include consumer costs for hospitalization, physician visits, prescription drugs, co-payments, deductibles, and any other form of cost sharing required by health insurance plans.

On April 24, the Assembly’s Committee on Health passed AB 1800 with a 13-6 vote. Next, it is headed to Appropriations. Click here to read the news coverage and click here for the Society’s analysis of the bill.  

Yet another example of how MS activists are raising their voices to change the lives of people with living MS. Great job, Melanie and keep up the good work, everyone!

MS Activist Melanie Rowen

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