Carol Hardaway was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1990. After years of enduring relapses that brought episodes of complete blindness, numbness, tingling, debilitating fatigue, and short-term memory loss, the longtime resident of Texas — a state which offers Medicaid only to specific categories like low-income families, pregnant women, and the completely disabled — relocated to Maryland, where she signed up to Medicaid within two weeks.
“I was able to see a neurologist for care and start on an MS disease-modifying therapy, for which I pay $3 a month,” Hardaway said, according to a fact sheet from the National MS Society on Health Coverage. “Without Medicaid, this treatment would be $6,000 a month out-of-pocket. As a substitute teacher making $260 every two weeks, that is unattainable.”
Likewise, when Courtney Eiterich of Lenexa, Kansas, was diagnosed 10 years ago, she had a full-time job and healthcare benefits. But as Eiterich’s MS worsened, she was forced to change employment; her best option was to accept group coverage at $2,300 a month for a family of five.
Passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) in 2010 meant she could no longer be denied health insurance or charged more for a pre-existing condition. The ACA also gave her newer, cheaper options for coverage through the Kansas marketplace, and her family’s premiums eventually dropped to $925 a month, the MS Society reports.
Now, as Congress debates whether to replace Obamacare with the White House-supported American Health Care Act (AHCA), Eiterich says she’s frightened.
“As someone with a chronic, complex disease, I fear being put back in the place where I can’t afford coverage. While my disease is unpredictable, I need my healthcare to be reliable,” she said, urging lawmakers to “not take us backwards.”
Eiterich was among 275 activists who descended on Washington, D.C., for this week’s 2017 Public Policy Conference of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS).
Bari Talente, executive vice president of advocacy at NMSS, said her nonprofit advocacy group arranged about 340 visits to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The fact that the March 20–22 conference took place just as the House of Representatives was debating whether to overhaul Obamacare was coincidental, she said.
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