MS Costs: Comparison Shopping

Being a good steward of money is pretty much mandatory these days, especially where it comes to medical care.  A fixed percentage of my medical costs are covered by my checkbook and the balance is paid by my employer-subsidized insurance. I know of no one who has their medical care paid 100% by someone else.  We all have to reach in our pockets and pitch in at one level or another, so it is only natural when we are presented with the opportunity to save on our treatment costs, to stop and consider the options.

This is no news flash to anyone who has Multiple Sclerosis, but MS is a very expensive disease to manage. There is no way around it – there are frequent doctor visits, assorted drugs for symptoms, disease modifying drugs for the MS itself, and often the need for physical or occupational therapy.  The costs can be frighteningly high and can threaten financial ruin.  The ongoing challenge is to find ways to contain those bills, but how?

My insurance company regularly offers ‘new’ opportunities in cost savings and reaches out to me via emails, US mail and phone calls, offering to save me money.  Now I’m no fool because I know if I am saving money, the insurance company will be saving even more money so their motives are not entirely altruistic.  Unfortunately, that’s just how our insurance system works. But I also believe it never hurts to review their latest ideas and do my part to help the national debt.

A while back, my insurance company suggested I order my specialty drug to be shipped to the clinic in  three month doses, saving me a significant amount.  I told the phone representative that this would not work, but she insisted otherwise and I agreed to the change in my shipping plan. It  was only a few days later they had to call to tell me they could not do their proposed change because my MS drug is tightly controlled, and can only be shipped one month at a time. So much for that savings idea, and I did refrain from saying ‘I told you so!’

This week I had a rerun of a phone call that I had last year – this time my insurance cost analysis representative wanted to talk to me about my upcoming MRI imaging studies, and how much money I could save if I had them done  on a different machine in a different location than my doctor has ordered.   The machine here in my hometown can easily do imaging of my brain, but the strength of their machine is less than what I get when I travel to my neurologist’s institution.  Getting them to run an MRI by the exacting MS protocol is also difficult.

I also pointed out  if my MRIs are done at the same location as I have used in the past,  the same radiologist is reading my images each time it is done and my neurologist has immediate electronic access to these records.  If I have them done somewhere else, the doctor has to wait for a copy to arrive and then it cannot be added to my electronic health records at the clinic nor can it be easily compared to my prior MRI series.

I could save money out of my pocket by following the insurance company’s recommendations but would that really be the right way to go?  Sure, I could save some money in the short term, but would I see a return in the long run if the results were in err or misinterpreted by the local radiologist and causing a delay in adjusting my treatment?  What if while I am chasing money savings my doctors are missing important clues in my test results?

The answer to the complex question of how we can save on medical spending in the short term that leads to long term benefits remains unanswered for most of us.  There are no cutbacks or major changes I can make, short of stopping my treatment that is going to control the cost of treating my Multiple Sclerosis. If you know something different that helps, I would love to hear from you.

Wishing you well,


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