MS Public Policy Conference 2011
The 20th annual conference occurred March 7-9 in Washington D.C. The chapter delegation included volunteers from each state. This year’s public policy priority issues are funding for MS research in the Congressionally Directed Research program in the Department of Defense, support for the Adult Day Achievement Center Act, and legislation that would allow neurologists to qualify for Medicare payment incentives in order to improve access to these providers for people living with multiple sclerosis. This legislation will correct an omission in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which led to the exclusion of neurology from the list of specialties eligible to receive the Medicare payment incentives. Any official not a member of the MS Caucus was urged to join.
MS Activist Blog
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Action Alert Network
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Health Care Reform Implementation
States are implementing federal reform that started in 2010 amidst existing laws and policies. The chapter is carefully monitoring state efforts, reviewing legislative bills and working in coalitions 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. Need assistance understanding this new program or advice about health insurance? Call 1-800-344-4867
Government Relations Committee
The GRC in each of the our chapter’s four states are actively seeking committed individuals to join us for our monthly meetings. Are you a person with MS or 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 contact Michelle.Dickson@nmss.org.
Legislators and MS: Powerful Connections
This year marks the first time that GNE chapter MS awareness events were held at all four state capitols. These events were powerful reminders of the many legislators who have been touched by MS through personal connections. Are you one of them?
Your Input Needed!
A survey is underway for people from Maine with MS, family members, and professionals to assist the Government Relations Committee to better understand barriers to day-to day living and 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 available to individuals and the self-employed through the DirigoChoice program. Eligibility for the plan requires that one must meet the following criteria:
- No medical coverage for the previous 6 months before applying for assistance.
- Have at least one pre-existing medical condition and provide supporting documentation from a medical provider which includes multiple sclerosis.
- Be a citizen or national of the U.S. and able to provide a copy of U.S. birth certificate or passport or have 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. For more information, contact DHA customer service at 1-877-892-8391.
State House Awareness Event
On March 15, legislators joined chapter staff and MS activists in the State House Hall of Flags to learn more about MS and the work of the chapter. This event coincided with MS Awareness Week. Governor Paul LePage issued a proclamation recognizing “Multiple Sclerosis week in Maine.” Senator Lois Snowe-Mello(R-Androscoggin) and Representative Paul Bennett (R- Kennebunk) also presented a MS resolution in honor of the event. Representative Susan Morissette (R-Winslow) and chapter board of trustee member and GRC chair Bob Picone spoke poignantly about the disease of MS and the need to implement polices that enhance the quality of life for all those affected by MS.
The GRC is finalizing a policy agenda which includes, but is not limited to, continued funding for the chapter’s Home LINKS care management program, bills related to prescription drug tiering and access to prescription drug assistance programs, a Medicaid spousal waiver, and changing the state building code to require power door openers in new and renovated public buildings.
Home LINKS Preserved IN House AND Senate Budgets!
The Governor’s budget omitted any funding or language for the chapter’s Home LINKS care management program. The House and Senate versions included funding for the line-item containing Home LINKS and other public health programs. While the funding is a drastic cut, the program is at least preserved.
New State House Event
On March 16, a first ever MS Legislative Coffee Break sponsored by Representative Ron Mariano and Senator Mark Montigny was held for legislators their staff. The program included a diverse speaker line-up and distribution of a new booklet, Facing Multiple Sclerosis in Massachusetts, describing MS, chapter services, and policy priority issues. Each speaker touched upon key issues confronting people with MS across the lifespan from pediatric to progressive MS to help personalize this variable 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 get to meet their elected officials in their own districts in order to strengthen our grass-roots efforts.
NH Catastrophic Illness Fund
This state fund provides financial assistance, up to a maximum of $2,500, to qualified low-income residents who incur out of pocket medical expenses. Continued funding will be a challenge in this biennial budget given declining revenues. Funding was omitted in the Governor’s budget. A proposal has been recently made to remove this program permanently from state statute and the chapter is opposing this measure by urging the legislature to fund the program at one dollar.
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.
MS Awareness Events
On February 16, chapter staff and volunteers hosted an MS information table in the State House cafeteria for a meet and greet of the new legislature. The event was sponsored by House Speaker William Obrien and supported by Senate President Peter Bragdon. Staff from the Governor’s Commission on Disability attended.
Chapter Board of Trustee member, Ken Jones, was a guest on a special taped show highlighting MS Awareness Week in March. The Manchester Access TV show was hosted by chapter member and former State Representative Carol Williams.
A landmark “Single Payer Health Plan” has been signed into law by the Governor. The chapter provided testimony on key provisions and will continue to weigh in on regulations now that the bill is enacted into law. Advocates also took the lead on an amendment to S.104 to prohibit the insurance industry from issuing “specialty tiers” on prescription drugs which would result in costly co-pays or the entire cost of drugs. The final bill approved by the legislature included a one-year moratorium on specialty tiers. The chapter endorsed the AARP “Complete Streets” legislation to improve public access, which passed the legislature.
Spring Activities at the Capitol
March was a busy month for staff and MS activists who participated in “Disability Awareness Day” sponsored by the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights and the “Networking Breakfast” sponsored by the Vermont SILC.
MS Day at the State House on April 8, was sponsored by Representative Mitzi Johnson (Chittenden 1). Representative Bob Krebs (Chittenden 1) recognized the Greater New England Chapter on the floor of the House. Legislators stopped by the information table in the card room to learn more about MS and our priorities.