In April of 2018, Ragan Grossman and her husband left their corporate jobs to pursue the American dream- owning their own small business. They weren’t concerned with their health care; after all, why should they have been? They were healthy and they had COBRA for the next 18 months from Ragan’s previous employer.
Within those 18 months, Ragan began having vision issues in one eye. After a battery of tests, on September 5, 2019, Ragan received a diagnosis for multiple sclerosis. This incurable disease causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system. Her COBRA was set to run out in only two months.
Two different doctors told Ragan that she would need to return to working at a company that offered health insurance benefits in order to afford the treatment she needed. However, Ragan was not willing to compromise on the independent life that she and her husband had built for themselves. Owning her own business is something she had worked towards for years and the work “filled her heart.”
Instead, Ragan started researching how to buy a plan for herself. She called multiple different brokers, a few of which denied her coverage outright on the phone because of her diagnosis. Finally, she went on Healthcare.gov and was able to purchase a plan.
Multiple sclerosis requires constant monitoring and medication to remain under control. The first drug that Ragan was prescribed to control her illness cost around $94,000 a year, and she was on it for around 10 months. With her insurance plan, which costs her $532 a month, her copay for that medication was $1,500 a month. That medication failed to control her illness properly, and now Ragan’s doctor is trying to get her approved for a drug that costs around $100,000 a year.
Ragan is eligible for copay assistance from the drug manufacturer because she is enrolled in a commercial insurance plan. “This is why it is so critical that my insurer is not able to drop my coverage for any reason,” said Ragan. If they dropped her, not only would she be covering the portion that her insurance covers now, but she’d be ineligible for the assistance and therefore she’d be responsible for the entire price of her expensive, necessary medications.
Ragan is now at a point where, if the ACA was overturned, “the cost of these drugs would bankrupt my family.” She counts herself privileged that she’s currently able to afford the monthly insurance premiums and other costs associated with multiple sclerosis tests and medications.
The lesions that the disease has caused in Ragan’s brain and spine have yet to affect much of her way of life, but the future is uncertain. Multiple Sclerosis is very unpredictable, so she wants to use her current time and energy to advocate for better access to quality health care.