Getting Multiple Sclerosis Care when Unemployed or Furloughed

May 16 2020

Cropped Photo: Christopher Lemercier on Unsplash

Multiple sclerosis causes anxiety for many people living with the condition. With the COVID-19 pandemic, added anxiety comes from people with MS or their family members being furloughed or terminated from employment. How am I going to stay on my medications or afford them? Will I still be able to see my doctor if I lose my health insurance? How can I pay for an MRI scan?

In United States, the disease-modifying medications are generally free for those patients without insurance or underinsured if not on government insurance (Medicare or Medicaid). Your healthcare provider simply needs to submit a prescription (called a service request form or SRF) to the pharmaceutical company that makes the MS medication to access the financial assistance. These programs have no co-pay if you qualify and apply to people already on a specific disease-modifying MS medication or starting a new medication.

For those people on Medicare, independent charitable patient assistance programs can help with co-pay assistance since the U.S. government does not allow the pharmaceutical companies to provide medications with no co-pay. The pharmaceutical company that makes your medication can help you figure out which patient assistance programs to apply for co-pay assistance. If your income is too high, you may not qualify for patient assistance with Medicare (which tends to occur when retirement income is too high or the person with MS is on Social Security Disability while their spouse working).

To cover medications, doctor visits and medications, Medicaid might be an option if you financially qualify depending on your own state’s requirements. Most large healthcare organizations offer charitable care for those in need which generally requires an application to coverage/assistance for doctor appointments, medication infusion costs and MRI scans.

The best resource for MRI scans is the MSAA MRI Access Fund. There’s an online application for free MRI scans of the brain and cervical spinal cord for people with multiple sclerosis or in the process of trying to diagnose MS. The MSAA can also help with MRI scan costs of completed scans. The MSAA MRI Access Fund is supported by Biogen and Sanofi Genzyme.  MSAA also has durable medical equipment assistance for items from cooling vests to wheelchairs.

A great resource for medication cost savings for medications is GoodRx. After entering the medication name and your ZIP code, a list of pharmacies and price at each pharmacy is listed plus coupons are generated. GoodRx can save hundreds of dollars on a single medication in one month.

Another option is participating in a clinical trial. Most relapsing clinical trials currently do not involve placebo so you would receive active treatment, although may be experimental.  MRI scans, study visits, labs and sometimes transportation costs to centers are covered by the study and free to MS patients participating in the trial.

Never assume you don’t have options. Please reach out to your healthcare team who are committed to keeping you on track for your MS care!

BY: Barry Singer, MD DATE: May 16, 2020 TOPIC: Living Well With MS