MS costs a lot. If you’re an MS caregiver, you know this to be true. If you’re a casual reader, continue and learn about the predicament that faces Multiple Sclerosis patients and their families.
Health care is expensive. Health care is especially expensive in the United States. I don’t know all the reasons why this is true, but it seems to be related to profit, shareholders, insurance, law suits, regulations, etc. In other words, the system is so complex that I doubt anyone has the real answer to this question: Why do Multiple Sclerosis disease modifying drugs cost so much more in the US than in other countries?
I surely don’t know. I cannot imagine why MS medications cost 67% less in Britain, Canada and Germany. Same manufacturer. Same medication. Same disease. Very different cost.
In fact, Multiple Sclerosis is unusual among progressive diseases in that the medications are the most costly expense category. In the US, the cost of a patient’s MS medications can quickly reach $30,000 per year. But of course, that’s not the only cost associated with Multiple Sclerosis.
MS typically causes some form of disability. MS is a progressive neurological disease in which myelin is removed from neurons. This kills the neurons.
Because of disability, we must consider the cost of lost productivity at work or even the complete loss of one’s ability to work and secure an income. This impact is felt by family members. If an MS patient spouse spends $30,000 on medication and earns $30,000 at work, the family breaks even. In this simple example, we will assume the other spouse, the MS Caregiver wage earner, can support the family financially.
However, many MS patients are unable to work. In those cases, the family does not break even – not even close.
Between loss of employment ($30,000 in our example) and the cost of medication ($30,000 in the US), our sample family pays $60,000 for Multiple Sclerosis. That loss of $60,000 is unavailable to the family. It is an annual hole that must be filled.
Then there are other expenses directly related to medical care. First is inpatient hospital care. Fortunately, this is not a frequent event for most MS patients. Inpatient hospitalization seems to be required about once every five or six years. Average this out and this cost is probably close to $1000 per year. Second, in-home, non-medical care is an expense that many MS patients incur as their MS progresses. These costs vary based upon need and typically range from $6,000 to $12,000 per year.
Crunch all these numbers together and the annual cost of Multiple Sclerosis can easily top $65,000. Many families have insurance which covers some of these costs. But in our current economic environment, I imagine a number of families with an MS patient do not.
We’ve not even touched on impact being an MS caregiver can have on the caregiver’s career. I’ll save that one for a later date.