Losing disability insurance is a possible nightmare for those with CF

Original article on CBS This Morning

Megan Willis lives with cystic fibrosis, a deadly disease that causes extensive lung damage. The 22-year-old said she spends around six hours a day administering medications and therapy, and that the disease frequently causes infections and other complications.

With the condition, Willis qualified as a disabled adult for Social Security benefits on living expenses. About 10 million other Americans too disabled for work also get the stipend, called Disability Insurance. More importantly, having Social Security gave Willis access to Medicaid, which paid her annual health care costs of over $100,000.

But in March, Social Security sent her a letter saying her health had improved since the last review of her case and that she was able to work. This was news to Willis.

“My health has only gotten worse in the past year,” Willis told CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.

Despite that, her Social Security benefits were terminated and she lost Medicaid. Since she lives in Florida, one of 14 states without expanded Medicaid, she had no other way to get it. Her family can’t afford private insurance.

While the medical bills mounted, she began law school.

“I don’t want to just stay stagnant and you know, depressed, looking at the four walls of my room,” Willis said. “I want to move up in the world even if you know it’s going to be hard.”

Willis also contacted attorney Beth Sufian, who runs the Cystic Fibrosis Legal Hotline and has cystic fibrosis herself. Sufian said, “We’ve seen a five-times increase in the number of people with cystic fibrosis that have been reviewed in the past 18 months. And we think that Social Security is targeting young people with chronic illness in an effort to reduce the number of people getting benefits.”

By law, disability claims are periodically reviewed to see if recipients are still eligible for benefits. Over the last decade, to combat a backlog, full medical reviews quadrupled to an expected 900,000 this year.      

“It really is a life or death situation for all of our clients when they lose their benefits,” Sufian said.   

In Willis’ case, Social Security ultimately reconsidered and she was able to get back on disability in November. She was hospitalized around Thanksgiving, and Medicaid kicked in and the bills were covered, her mother Wendy said.

But Willis’s lawyer still has about 200 pending cases of people with cystic fibrosis who are first getting reviewed and those who are appealing.

***

Losing disability insurance can have devastating consequences for those with CF. Our very own Vice President, Beth Sufian, helps many individuals get on and stay on disability. For the full story go to https://www.cbsnews.com/…/what-happens-when-someone-loses-…/

Vote Like Your Life Depends On It! It Does.

By Beth Sufian, JD

Vote like your life depends on it Tuesday because if you have cystic fibrosis it does!

I did not think I needed to write an article about how important voting on November 6th is to people with CF, but last week I realized I was wrong.  I had discussions with some people with CF who did not understand the importance of the election to the CF community. I started to explain that if there are no changes in who is serving in Congress, the Affordable Care Act will be repealed in 2019.

We saw how close Congress came to repealing the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) last year. Senator John McCain was our hero when he voted against the repeal of the ACA. Senator McCain lost his own battle with cancer this year and he will not be able to save us again. To be safe we need 3-4 new Senators and 23-26 new members of the House who will protect the ACA.

Everyone with CF and everyone who loves a person with CF should be spending the next two days getting out the vote for candidates who will protect our ability to access the care and the medication we need to fight CF.

If the Affordable Care Act is repealed it will become impossible for large numbers of people with CF to access the health insurance policies or government programs we need to pay for our care and the expensive medications that are improving the lives of children and adults with CF.  Last week we heard from the Republican majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell who said that in 2019 he pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to both reduce the number of people who are eligible, and to restrict coverage under Medicaid and Medicare.

Many in the CF community mistakenly believe that the ACA does not apply to them because they have a private health insurance policy. The protections of the ACA apply to all private insurance policies. Here are just some protections the ACA provides to people with CF.

  1. The right to keep a parent’s health insurance coverage until a young adult turns 26.
  2. No lifetime caps on coverage.
  3. A maximum out of pocket amount.
  4. No pre-existing condition exclusions.
  5. 45 services that must be covered.
  6. The option for a state to expand Medicaid to low-income adults.

Without the ACA all of these provisions and many more protections go away.

Recent data show that at any given time at least 50 percent of children and adults with CF are enrolled in Medicaid.  Even if you have private health insurance, the loss of Medicaid by people with CF will still affect you. If 50 percent of our population does not have coverage for medication or treatment it will be impossible for companies and health care providers to deliver medications and treatment to the rest of us.  There will not be enough people who will be able to pay for care and medication. All people with CF will be negatively affected if the ACA is repealed.

If you have made other plans on November 6th I urge you to reschedule. There is no other event that should take precedence over the fate of health care for those with CF. We should all be coming together to make sure when we wake up on November 7th we know we did everything we could to protect the rights of people CF.

We ALL need to be getting out the vote on Tuesday. What does that mean? We need to be reaching out to friends and family members and explain why this election is so important to the CF community.

We need to reach out to campaigns who need our help block walking, phone banking and texting to get voters to the polls. We need to make sure everyone we know has a way to get to the polls. Many important races will be won by only a few votes. Every hour you spend getting out the vote now counts, there is no going back after the election is over.

This is the most important election of our lifetime.

Please join me in assuring that we have done everything we can for everyone in the CF community to continue to have the legal right to access insurance coverage. So many worked so hard to develop the excellent CF Care Center system. So many have spent their lives researching and discovering medications to help ease the burden CF places on us. Let us honor the memories of those who have lost their battle with CF by making sure we explain to friends and relatives why their vote on Tuesday is so important.

On Tuesday, I will be available all day to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid or Medicare coverage or to connect people to the information they may need to vote. Please call me at 1-800-622-0385 if I can help. I am acting as a private citizen on Tuesday and not as a member of any organization. I hope my next post will be of me dancing in the street late Tuesday night celebrating all of our efforts to make sure that everyone with CF has a bright future.

I Have Cystic Fibrosis, and CF Has Me

This Lung Life By Ella Balasa

I hear others say “I have CF. CF doesn’t have me.” This may be an accurate statement for some, the small percentage of patients who are not limited by this disease. Those who climb mountain peaks, work 60 hours a week, and raise three children. They could say this statement is true. They conquer everything, despite CF.

I am not one of these patients. I am optimistic, though. I’m optimistic that one day I will sprint faster than you (with transplanted lungs). I’m optimistic that I will leave this world having made some kind of impact on those around me, and maybe others that I am unaware of. But with this DNA in the cells of my lungs, I can’t do it all.

I’ve had significant events and minute moments in my life that have been affected by CF, although it’s not always apparent to the world around me. However, I don’t claim that CF has altered my life for the worst. Instead, I show the reality.

CF had me most recently when I was planning to go to the Cystic Fibrosis Research Inc.’s Family Education Conference. Being a director for the U.S. Adult Cystic Fibrosis Association, I wanted to connect with fellow CF directors and hear about the amazing new research the CF community is eager to benefit from. Unfortunately, due to CF infection guidelines and the bacteria I harbor in my lungs, I posed a risk to other CF patients, so I was restricted from attending.

Recently, as my form of exercise, I have been playing tennis. CF has me when it grasps my airways after just a few serves. I feel my lungs expanding but not getting enough air, exhausted from a previous sprint of just a few feet. I watch as the ball spins toward the far corner of the court. In my mind, my legs are in the air moving toward it, but in reality, they have just elevated the sole of my foot for the first step. The muscles are depleted of oxygen, waiting for the next burst for them to spring into action, but it never comes. Instead, they continue straining with what little reserve they have, for one-quarter of their potential. The quarter that comes from the lungs that function at one-quarter of what they should.

CF dictated the direction my life would take when upon graduation I was offered my dream job, but I didn’t take that career path. Spending four hours a day on breathing treatments, attending frequent doctor’s appointments, having occasional hospital stays and health insurance factors, as well as maintaining a social life and community involvement weren’t conducive to a full-time working schedule. Choosing not to advance in my career as my peers did made me feel left behind. Instead, keeping my health as the focus, I chose part-time employment.

CF has me when I have an exacerbation and lots of congestion in my lungs. On occasion during these times, I’ve taken the flight of stairs from the basement out into the sunshine after work. After a few steps outside, I feel the absence of air in my lungs. I gasp and then panic. Continue the article here. 

Defining Barriers to Treatment for Patients With CF

The Cystic Fibrosis Engagement Network, a project of the Alliance for Patient Access, released a new white paper, “Making Treatment Accessible for Cystic Fibrosis Patients.” The white paper details what’s standing in the way of patient access to new treatments approved to target some of the genetic mutations that cause Cystic Fibrosis – and how addressing bureaucratic barriers could help the 30,000 Americans living with this rare disease. For the patients with specific mutations, these treatments can significantly improve lung function and quality of life.

Continue reading Defining Barriers to Treatment for Patients With CF

You are invited to attend a free web-cast event SATURDAY, APRIL 22, 2017

RARE LUNG DISEASES PATIENT EDUCATION DAY ON CYSTIC FIBROSIS, CHILDREN’S INTERSTITIAL LUNG DISEASE AND PRIMARY CILIARY DYSKINESIA

REGISTER NOW AT:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6993341835513746691

This event is co-sponsored by the American Thoracic Society, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Children’s Interstitial Lung Disease Foundation and the Primary Continue reading You are invited to attend a free web-cast event SATURDAY, APRIL 22, 2017

Medical Records Are Crucial — By Beth Sufian, JD

In this blog we provide information related to medical records and their importance to a person with CF.

Nothing in this blog post is meant to be legal advice about your specific situation and is only meant as information.  

Medical Records Are Crucial

Detailed and accurate medical records can help with a variety of issues. Medical records are important for those applying for Social Security benefits or undergoing an SSA Continuing Disability Review. Continue reading Medical Records Are Crucial — By Beth Sufian, JD

CFF announces recipients of first annual impact grants

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Announces Recipients of First Annual Impact Grants to Programs That Serve People With CF and Their Families

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has announced the recipients of its first annual Impact Grants.

The program provides funding to support people with cystic fibrosis who are creating unique projects in their communities that serve people with the disease and their families. Cystic fibrosis is a rare, genetic disease that causes chronic lung infections and premature death.

The 2016 grants award $10,000 each to seven diverse programs across the country — from one that teaches singing as an outlet for creativity and wellness, to others that provide personal fitness and health training to individuals with cystic fibrosis. Recipients were chosen by the CF Adult Advisory Council, an external panel comprised entirely of adults with the cystic fibrosis, in partnership with the CF Foundation.

“People with CF have the greatest insights about how to live with this disease,” said Drucy Borowitz, M.D., vice president of community partnerships at the CF Foundation. “We are honored to support these organizations that harness the power of the CF community to help people with this disease and their families live better lives every day.”

Read the blog here.

The grant award recipients include:
The Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation (CFLF), a nonprofit organization that helps people with CF maintain a healthy lifestyle. The CFLF provides assistance to children and adults with CF who demonstrate a financial need and personal desire to improve their physical wellbeing.

The United States Adult CF Association (USACFA), a nonprofit corporation run by adults with CF, offers the community an opportunity to exchange medical and nonmedical information through its quarterly national newsletter, CF Roundtable.

Project CF Spouse is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting spouses of people with CF. The grant will be used to grow the 150-person group, expand educational resources and facilitate connections between other spouses as they navigate their own CF journeys.

The sINgSPIRE program, through Breathe Bravely, will provide free, private voice lessons with a qualified voice instructor who will work on strengthening participants’ respiratory systems and improving self-awareness and confidence.

Program NuYou, part of Attain Health, is an online health coaching and personal training program for individuals with CF. Each participant receives time with an integrative health coach and personal trainer, and the program includes weekly check-ins, video conferences and a workout plan that is tailored to individual participant’s needs.

Miles for Cystic Fibrosis supports Project BreatheStrong, which provides grants for children and adults with CF to take part in activities that will improve their mental and physical heath.

Continuing Education for Caregiver/Individuals with CF supports individuals affected by CF through educational workshops that concentrate on various aspects of the disease.

Continue reading CFF announces recipients of first annual impact grants

Virtual march makes Women’s March more accessible to people with disabilities

http://mashable.com/2017/01/18/disability-march-womens-march-on-washington/#tvomjWBNRmqP

By Katie Dupere

Activism isn’t always accessible — and the Women’s March on Washington is no exception.

For people who might not have the physical ability or stamina to join Saturday’s Continue reading Virtual march makes Women’s March more accessible to people with disabilities

Asking For Help–Guest Blog

By Stephanie Rath

My father committed suicide when I was four. Being an only child it was just my mom and I. Thankfully we had help. We moved from North Carolina and into the basement of my grandparents. Being a single mom my mother needed help back Continue reading Asking For Help–Guest Blog

BREAKING NEWS: AN ANALYSIS OF THE NEW SOCIAL SECURITY RULES FOR CYSTIC FIBROSIS.

By Beth Sufian, JD

Social Security has issued new rules regarding Social Security benefit medical eligibility criteria for people with CF.  The new rules will go into effect on October 7, 2016.  The following blog post is a summary of the changes and some important things people with CF should know about the changes. A more detailed Continue reading BREAKING NEWS: AN ANALYSIS OF THE NEW SOCIAL SECURITY RULES FOR CYSTIC FIBROSIS.