For Immediate Release: 11-2-22 

Contact: Peter Jasinski | 

The language filed by Sen. Keenan allows multiple sclerosis patients to retain successful treatments, regardless of changes in their insurance 

BOSTON – Legislation filed by Senator John F. Keenan (D-Quincy) to protect individuals living with multiple sclerosis from losing helpful treatments due to changes in their insurance coverage was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday following its recent approval in the State Senate and House. 

“For anyone living with MS, timing is vital. Finding a successful treatment is usually done through a lengthy and frustrating trial-and-error process. In the meantime, any physical damage the illness inflicts on the patient is permanent and likely to persist even after a successful treatment is identified,” said Sen. Keenan. “Finding a treatment that works and then having that treatment taken away due to a change in insurance coverage is devastating.” 

The Massachusetts Senate voted in favor of passing H.5358, An Act relative to step therapy and patient safety, which included the language drafted by Sen. Keenan, during its October 24 session. The Massachusetts House had previously passed the bill on October 20. 

Sen. Keenan’s legislation, filed as an amendment to the step therapy bill, allows patients to stay on treatments that work for them even if their health insurer changes their formulary or if the patient has to change insurance coverage. 

Additionally, the legislation makes individuals eligible for transition fills if they are changing plans and need enough of their medication to last them until their new insurance plan activates and approves their prescription. The provisions also guarantee that the treatments individuals have already been prescribed are not subject to any greater deductible, coinsurance, copayments or out-of-pocket limits than any other disease-modifying prescription drug for multiple sclerosis provided by the insurer. 

“When it comes to treating someone living with MS, finding and continually taking the right medication is critically important to the well-being of the individual,” said Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington), who filed the House version of the MS legislation. “The language that has been passed by the Legislature ensures that once the right medication has been found, a person will be able to take that mediation uninterrupted regardless of changes to employment and insurance.” 

“People living with MS need early and ongoing access to the disease-modify therapy that works best for them in order to slow the progression of the disease. This legislation will help to ensure that they have continuity of care in their MS treatments and are not forced onto drugs that they know do not work for them,” said Laura Hoch, Senior Advocacy Manager for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “We want to thank the Legislature for tackling this important issue and, in particular, Senator Keenan for his work on ensuring that people living with MS have access to the medications they need.” 

Multiple sclerosis primarily impacts the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves of patients, greatly affecting their central nervous system. Much of the damage caused by MS is due to the erosion of myelin, the protective layer insulating wire-like nerve fibers. This erosion disrupts signals to and from the brain, making it increasingly difficult for patients to control certain functions. This interruption of communication signals can materialize as a variety of symptoms, including numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis.  

The exact cause of MS is still unknown, and no single treatment works for all patients. The illness is three times more common in women than men and is primarily diagnosed in patients between the ages of 20 and 50. More than one million people living in the United States have been diagnosed with MS. 

“With so many new patients diagnosed each year, this legislation will ensure future generations of Massachusetts residents living with MS will have an easier time navigating their symptoms and treatment,” said Sen. Keenan.