New Legislation Means Earlier Access to Medicare Benefits for Individuals With ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)
WASHINGTON, July 5 /PRNewswire/ -- A historic law that takes effect this week eliminates the 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage for individuals suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. Previously, ALS patients that qualified for Social Security Disability (SSD) had to wait two years for Medicare coverage, despite the fact that life expectancy for some ALS patients is less than two years. This landmark legislation, passed by the 106th Congress and signed into law by President Clinton last December, will impact thousands of ALS patients nationwide. This benefit became law on July 1, 2001. "It is because of the tireless dedication of ALS patients, supporters and The ALS Association (ALSA), that Medicare benefits will now be available more quickly to a greater number of patients," stated Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), an author of the legislation. "This new law will help ease the financial burden of ALS and improve the lives of thousands of patients and families struggling with this devastating disease." Medicare is a federal program providing health insurance benefits for Americans 65 years and older and people with disabilities. Until this new legislation was passed, eligible, disabled ALS patients had to wait a total of 29 months for Medicare benefits from the time their SSD application was approved. Now that the ALS legislation is enacted, ALS patients will only have a five-month waiting period that SSD requires, and then both programs will go into effect. Currently, the Medicare program offers eligible beneficiaries two types of coverage: hospitalization (Part A) covers in-patient hospitalizations including surgery, treatments and in-patients medications and hospice care, while physician services (Part B) covers selected outpatient care such as diagnostic tests, physician visits and medical equipment. "As an ALS patient, I understand first-hand how frustrating it is to have to wait more than two years for Medicare benefits," stated Jim Laughlin, patient from the Santa Barbara, California area. "It's a relief for my family and I to know that Medicare will now cover the cost of visits to the doctor and hospital, allowing increased medical care and significantly reducing the financial burden we have carried for so long." Half of people diagnosed with ALS will die within three years of diagnosis due to the progressive nature of the disease. Elimination of the 24-month Medicare waiting period will positively affect the lives of people with ALS, providing them with coverage for medical care. Routine physician visits allow patients to more easily obtain information about their disease, its progression and investigational and proven ALS therapies, such as Rilutek, the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of ALS. "The ALS Association is extremely grateful to Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) and Senator Robert Toricelli (D-NJ) for their determined efforts in passing this historic law," stated Mike Havlicek, president of The ALS Association (ALSA). "Their stewardship of the legislation, along with the bi-partisan support of their colleagues, has helped to ratify the first-ever ALS specific legislation." About ALS Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a fatal, neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. When these cells die, the ability of the brain to start and control all voluntary muscle control and movement dies with them. Patients in the later stages of the disease are totally paralyzed, yet, in most cases, their minds remain sharp and alert. Every 24 hours, 15 new cases of ALS are diagnosed; at the same time every 24 hours, 15 people will die from the disease. Nearly 30,000 Americans in the United States have ALS at any given time. The average life expectancy of a person with ALS is two to five years from time of diagnosis. Half of all people diagnosed with ALS live three or more years after diagnosis. Twenty percent live five years or more; up to ten percent will survive more than ten years. The ALS Association is the only national not-for-profit voluntary health organization dedicated solely to the fight against ALS through research, patient support, information dissemination and public awareness. The Association is one of the largest sources of private, specifically-targeted research into ALS. Headquartered in Southern California, The Association and its widespread network of volunteer-led chapters and support groups, along with its certified ALS clinics, wage battle against the disease. For more information about ALS and The ALS Association, visit www.alsa.org. MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT - Click Here http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X25426398
SOURCE The ALS Association
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