Preventing the “bottomless pit” of out-of-pocket costs…

This afternoon, the Assembly Health Committee heard AB1800(Ma), a bill to cap out-of-pocket costs, as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which Health Access California is co-sponsoring with the Northern California MS Society. Here’s the powerful testimony of one of the witnesses in support:

My name is Melanie Rowen, I live in San Francisco and I have MS. To prevent my MS from progressing, potentially causing serious disability in my future, I need to take one of the very few MS drugs available.

When I first called to order my medication, I learned that my insurance plan required me to pay 30 percent of the price – my monthly cost for that one medication alone ended up averaging about $800. And that was only one of my medical expenses.

I couldn’t afford it, but I went into credit card debt to pay for it anyway, because my neurological function is so important.

Worse than the debt, though, was the relentless fear about how far this would go – the price of my medication fluctuated, and every year I had no idea how much more I would end up paying or when or how I would be able to dig myself out of the red. The constant stress and uncertainty was the last thing I needed when I was supposed to be focusing on staying healthy.

If AB 1800 had been in effect, my whole life would have been different – I would have been able to count on medical expenses of $6k per year and no more, instead of the basically limitless costs I faced. For now, my story has a happy ending because I changed jobs and now work for the UC system, where I can get insurance that covers my costs predictably, at a level I can afford.

But without AB 1800, there is no security for the thousands of Californians, particularly those living with chronic diseases like MS, who still face a bottomless pit of health care expenses in a market in which they have no bargaining power. I urge the Committee to pass AB 1800.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.