The 2010 Scholarship Program will accept applications from October 1, 2009 to January 15, 2010. Go to www.nationalMSsociety.org for eligibility criteria and an application.
Two first year medical students are participating in a four-week long clinical fellowship this summer, funded by the Chapter. The fellowships provide the opportunity to gain clinical experience at eight of our affiliated MS centers and acquaint medical students with the comprehensive care of MS patients. The two fellows are Jakub Pach, who completed his first year of Medical School at UMass, and Alexander Kobzik, who completed his first year at Tufts University Medical School.
The Central New England Chapter has received a grant from Action for Boston Community Development in Boston to help people with MS in Middlesex County who are behind in their rent or mortgage payments. To be eligible, you must be a person with a documented diagnosis of MS and meet chapter eligibility requirements. For further information, contact Judy Cotton, Director of Chapter Services at 781-693-5141. Also read about Federal mortgage assistance.
A week away, a world of difference! That’s the spirit of MS Vacation Week that was held June 21-26. It is held each year in collaboration with the Connecticut Chapter at Easter Seals Camp Hemlocks in Hebron, Connecticut. Activities included swimming in an accessible indoor pool, talent show, arts and crafts, yoga, and much more.
The chapter's efforts to restore funding for New Hampshire's catastrophic illness fund succeeded. The final budget proposal submitted to Governor Lynch includes not only a restoration of funding, but an increase over two years. The chapter collaborated with the American Cancer Society on an op-ed piece that received good media placements, in addition to encouraging chapter members to contact their state legislators. To learn more about the catastrophic illness fund and eligibility requirements for New Hampshire residents, go to www.dhhs.nh.gov/dhhs/beas/cip.htm.
Anyone who loses group health insurance in a lay-off can elect to extend their coverage for up to 18 months and sometimes longer through COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). The problem is COBRA participants typically pay 102% of the premium, making it hard to afford on unemployment insurance. Now, people who lose their health insurance when they lose their jobs may be eligible for a COBRA subsidy.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—better known as the “stimulus package”— offers some relief. Eligible workers laid off between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 may continue their coverage paying only 35% of the premium for up to nine months.
“Contact your former employer right away to determine whether you can opt in,” said Kim Calder, director of Insurance Initiatives for the National MS Society. “COBRA not only provides the same coverage you had while you were working, it can help you get new insurance later on. This can be critical if you have a pre-existing condition like MS.”
Former employees are ineligible for COBRA if
- The employer went out of business
- The employer terminated group coverage for all workers
- The employee was terminated for misconduct
- The employee left work voluntarily
But employees are eligible if the former employer only closed a branch or division and is still in business elsewhere. This is so even if the company offered the individual a new job in another part of the country that was not accepted.
For more information go to www.dol.gov/cobra or call us.
What You Should Know about Physician Tiering and the GIC’s Clinical Performance Improvement Initiative
If you obtain your health insurance through the state, the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) may be your insurance provider. If so, you will see that GIC has ranked your doctors into one of three “tiers.” The tier that your doctor is in determines your co-pay. The higher the tier, the higher the co-pay.
What does this mean?
The health plans say that the tiers tell you whether your doctor provides high quality care, at a reasonable cost. There are problems with that notion, especially in the treatment of MS and other chronic conditions.
- The GIC tiering system is supposedly based on quality and cost of care. Currently, there are no tools that are widely accepted that are proven to measure quality of care. The tools used by GIC are meager and unvalidated and do not reflect the quality of care that a doctor provides. That leaves cost of care as the most influential factor in determining the tier of the doctor by GIC. It sometimes appears that doctors who order disease-modifying agents, durable medical equipment, rehabilitation interventions and other necessary yet expensive care are placed into a higher tier. This is unfair to those with chronic illnesses and disability, since these interventions are needed and indicate a high level of care.
- Who pays the price? You do. Your co-payments may be higher, based on a ranking that isn’t accurate or fair. You may be encouraged to change doctors through financial penalties for seeing a Tier III doctor. Many MS Neurologists are ranked Tier III.
- We support cost containment. But this system is neither accurate nor fair. If you have any questions about tiering, please talk to your doctor. We cannot endorse this system as a way to choose a physician.
- When selecting a doctor, don’t rely on the GIC’s tiering to make your choice. To choose an MS Specialist, start by calling The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Central New England Chapter at 800-344-4867, and asking for a list of providers in your area. Some other basic guidelines for choosing an MS Specialist are to:
- Ask your friends, family, and colleagues for recommendations.
- Ask your primary care physician for a recommendation.
You can also read the Massachusetts Medical Society’s guidelines on “How to Choose a Doctor” at www.massmed.org/chooseMD. This document provides a balanced guide on how to choose a doctor that’s right for you.