By Shaina Smith.
Imagine you’re driving down the highway with your child in the back seat and you are suddenly overcome with a rushing sensation of adrenaline, fatigue and panic. Your vision changes, your heart beat quickens, and you hold on tight to the steering wheel, praying you don’t lose consciousness and the ability to keep your son or daughter safe. That was my life before being accurately diagnosed with one of my many comorbid conditions and finding a treatment option that managed its symptoms.
Living with a chronic disease makes you feel vulnerable and unsafe in your own body. But what’s even scarier than the unknown from the accompanying symptoms is the lack of control individuals have when it comes to the management of their illness. Children, veterans, mothers, lawmakers, public safety personnel are all susceptible to being taken off the medically necessary treatment options prescribed by their doctor. Why? In an effort to save money, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers will switch a person from their current therapy onto an alternative treatment option. Known as non-medical switching, this practice of forcing a person off their medication happens in the middle of the health plan year, when that individual is locked into the plan with nowhere to turn for help. Now that’s scary.
There is good news though: lawmakers in Springfield are taking notice of the harm non-medical switches can have on moms like me, children like my son and friends like yours who live here in Illinois. House Bill 4146 would make health coverage fair in Illinois by preventing insurers from making unfair – and potentially unsafe – benefit changes while Illinoisans are locked into the plan. The bill recently passed the Illinois House of Representative and has bipartisan support in the Senate. Chief sponsors include Senator’s Heather Steans (D – 7th District), Antonio Muñoz (D – 1st District), Linda Holmes (D – 42nd District), Pamela J. Althoff (R – 32nd District), and Melinda Bush (D – 31st District). I urge their Senate colleagues to join them and co-sponsor this bill.
If the bill passes, it would mean families and individuals in Illinois would be protected from harmful mid-year medication changes. It would mean Illinois patients living with chronic conditions like I do would not have to worry that their medication is financially inaccessible or has been altered. That decision should stay between us and our physicians.
When the Senate has the chance to vote on House Bill 4146, I ask its members to think of me, the woman behind the steering wheel with a smiling child in the back seat of the car. I implore Senators to ask themselves if they could knowingly turn away from legislation that would keep their constituents safe from experiencing health setbacks that could endanger the life of that individual and their loved ones. If the answer is no, I applaud your stance on patient safety and urge you to become co-sponsors and vote favorably on House Bill 4146. Your support is shared by more than 25 cosponsors in the Senate. Illinois residents just want insurers to honor the contracts they sign with patients and be able to receive the prescription coverage benefits they signed up for.
Shaina Smith is Director of State Advocacy & Alliance Development for U.S. Pain Foundation. Diagnosed with various pain conditions, including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type, Shaina utilizes her Journalism background to mobilize pain patient advocates and engage volunteers to participate in awareness programs.