Have your federal and state elected officials changed following the November election? If so, now is the time to learn who they are and their areas of interest, and to contact them or meet them in the district. If you know your lawmaker personally, let us know that!
MS Activist Blog
Check out the latest federal news and share your views!
Action Alert Network
Are you registered as an MS activist? We need your voice. One link will sign you up to receive federal and state alerts to take action. Recruit a friend!
Health Care Reform Implementation
All states are charged with implementing federal reform starting in 2010 in consideration of existing state laws and policies. The Chapter is carefully monitoring our state efforts, reviewing legislative bills, participating in coalitions, and working and in conjunction with our national staff to help ensure the greatest coverage, protections, and affordability for people with MS. Beginning July 1, new health insurance programs are offering coverage to uninsured individuals with a pre-existing health condition, including MS. If you need assistance understanding this new program or advice about health insurance, call 1-800-344-4867.
MS Policy issue feedback wanted
Are there policy issues you would like the Chapter to address? Do you have ideas on how we can improve the independence and well-being of those affected by MS or want to share your experience as it relates to the need for a change in laws or regulations? The Government Relations Committees in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont would like feedback from you! Call 781-693-5146 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Government Relations Committee Volunteers Wanted!
The GRC in each of our four states is actively seeking committed individuals to join our monthly meetings. Are you a person with MS or do you have a connection to the disease? Do you have professional expertise in the area of law, medicine, disability, fundraising, policy, or community organizing? Do you have a commitment to working towards achieving short and long-term goals? Are you willing to speak before government officials, at public hearings, or with the media? Are you committed to working as a team and working on projects? If any of these describe you, please email email@example.com.
Your Input Needed!
A survey is underway for people in Maine with MS, family members, and professionals to assist the Government Relations Committee to better understand barriers of day-to-day living, and to identify ways to make changes through policy. Other tasks include better understanding the legislative process, connecting with key elected officials, and partnering with other health and disability organizations. To complete the consumer survey go to the Maine issue page on the Chapter website under the “Take Action” link or contact Michelle Dickson to have a survey mailed to you.
New Insurance Option for the Uninsured
The Dirigo Health Agency (DHA) is administering a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. The program started August 1, 2010 and is available to individuals through the Dirigo Choice program. Eligibility for the pre-existing condition plan requires one must meet the following criteria: 1) No medical coverage for the previous six months before applying for assistance. 2) Have at least one of several pre-existing medical conditions (MS is included) and provide supporting documentation from a medical provider that indicates a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. 3) Be a citizen or national of the U.S. and able to provide a copy of a U.S. birth certificate or passport or lawfully present with permanent resident status in the U.S. and able to provide a copy of a permanent resident card. Subsidies are available on a sliding scale to enrollees with household incomes under 300% of the Federal Poverty Limit ($32,490 for a single, $66,150 for a family of four) and assets under $60,000 for a single and under $120,000 for a household of two or more. Contact DHA customer service at 1-877-892-8391.
On March 15, legislators will join chapter staff and MS activists in the Maine State House Hall of Flags to learn more about MS and the work of the Chapter. This event coincides with “MS Awareness Week.” Senator Lois Snowe-Mello and Representative Paul Bennett will be presenting MS resolutions during the event.
The GRC is determining a policy agenda that includes, but is not limited to, continued funding for the Chapter’s Home LINKS care management program, bills related to prescription drug tiering, access to prescription drug assistance programs, and a Medicaid spousal waiver, oplus ongoing efforts initiated last summer to change the state building code to require power door openers in new and renovated public buildings.
The Governor’s budget omitted any funding for the Chapter’s Home LINKS program, so continued advocacy is needed to ensure the funding is included in the House and Senate budgets. Check the Massachusetts issue page for more updates.
New State House Event
This year the Chapter is hosting a “Legislative Coffee Break” for the legislature and their staff sponsored by representative Ron Mariano and Senator Mark Montigny. The program includes a diverse speaker line-up and new booklet Facing Multiple Sclerosis in Massachusetts describing MS, chapter services and policy priority issues. Each speaker will touch upon key issues confronting people with MS across their lifespan to help personalize this unpredictable disease. MS Action Day on Beacon Hill is scheduled for the second year of the legislative session in 2012. The Chapter is creating tools to assist all chapter members to meet their elected officials in their districts in order to strengthen our grass-roots efforts.
Catastrophic Illness Program Fund
Continued funding will be a challenge in this biennial budget, given the state’s declining revenues. The fund provides financial assistance up to a maximum of $2,500 to qualified low-income residents who incur out of pocket medical expenses. Funding was eliminated in the FY’12-’13 Governor’s budget but the Chapter will urge the legislature to appropriate funding to maintain this vital program.
Other priority issues include continued awareness/adherence to accessible parking laws, identifying new legislative champions and educating them about MS, lifespan respite care, and fostering the incorporation of universal design into private housing standards.
On February 16, chapter staff and volunteers staffed an information table in the N.H. State House cafeteria for a meet and greet of the new legislature. The event was sponsored by House Speaker William O’Brien. Staff from the Governor’s Commission on Disability joined our event.
The Chapter is actively tracking and determining policy positions on newly proposed plans to implement a single payer health insurance system and other key health care measures.
Priority issues include identifying key lawmakers and educating lawmakers about MS, endorsing and providing testimony in support of the AARP Complete Streets legislation, partnering with coalitions and agencies such as the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights, State-wide Independent Living Council, staffing a State House awareness table on April 8, and participating in cross-disability awareness days this spring.