About MSAA

As a national nonprofit organization, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America is a leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a toll-free Helpline; award-winning publications including a magazine, The Motivator; website featuring educational videos and research updates; S.E.A.R.C.H.™ program to assist the MS community with learning about different treatment choices; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; a resource database, My MS Resource Locator; equipment distribution ranging from grab bars to wheelchairs; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; educational events and activities; MRI funding and insurance advocacy; and more. For additional information, please visit http://www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

Responding To Comments That I Need To… (Fill In the Blank Here)

By: Stacie Prada

It personally bothers me when I read online articles telling people “What every person needs to do…”and presenting it as fact. They don’t know me, and what may work for the masses may not be appropriate for me.

A simple example of this is kale. Kale is very nutritious, has a lot of health benefits, and I feel good when I eat it. People with hypothyroidism or taking blood thinners need to avoid kale. What’s good for many people is not good for every individual.

It’s common for me to explain to people suggesting I take immune boosting products why I don’t. People think that because they’re successful avoiding or recovering from colds by taking immune boosting products that I should take them too. I’ll nicely explain that I take a disease modifying drug to suppress my immune system because it works too well. While I want to maximize my health, intentionally trying to trigger my immune system to start fighting isn’t good for me. I also explain that eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties does work well for me. We’re all different.

So while it bothers me to have someone tell me they have the answer to my problems, I respond to it the same way as if they’ve just made a suggestion. I’ll honestly let them know whether I’ve already tried it, I’m doing it now, I’ve tried it and it didn’t work for me, or that I’ll look into it. I have a mental list of things I want to try but am not ready to do yet. Some of them like doing yoga and seeing a naturopath took me years before I was ready to try them. When I did, they were a huge benefit to me and I wished I’d tried them sooner. I followed up with the person who’d made a suggestion and thanked her. I let her know I’d finally done it and loved it.

Response Tool Box: I like to think of communication as a toolbox with tools that we use regularly and others that don’t come as naturally. Sometimes we use our standard tool and it works great. Other times it takes three or four tries with different tools before we convey our message. I’ve found that the following methods have worked in response to comments that make me uncomfortable, that seem hurtful, or that I’m not up for answering in the moment:

  • The blow off: If a comment is too ridiculous or mean and you don’t want to address it at all: pretend you didn’t hear it. Focus on something or someone else and continue the conversation.
  • Incredulous silence: If you want them to know it was inappropriate or hurtful, a paused look of shock can work. And move on to something else.
  • Honesty: Say their comment is hurtful or too personal for your comfort level and you’d rather not discuss it. And move on to another topic.
  • The improvisational approach: Consider the comment as valid, build on it to the ridiculous and humorous conclusion, and laugh it off. It works best if your response really is funny and doesn’t embarrass the person who made the initial comment.
  • Find an advocate: Turn to a friendly face in the group and ask what they think about the topic through eye contact or explicit words.
  • Connect: Find the kernel of accuracy in what they’re saying, and comment on how that is true before explaining more about your experience.
  • Insight: Someone has said something completely foreign to anything you’ve thought before. Say that’s interesting and you’re going to think about it.
  • The delayed response: Sometimes a comment sticks in my head long after the conversation is done. I allow myself permission to bring it up later after I’ve thought about it. There’s no time limit to letting someone know that something they said made an impression on you.
  • Reschedule: If my energy is low or the event isn’t really conducive for the conversation and I really would like to discuss it another time, I’ll tell them.
  • Defer: There is a lot of information on the web about this topic, and I’m still learning all the time. I know some terrific websites and articles that can explain it much better than I can. If you’re interested in them, I’m happy to send them to you.
  • Question: See if you understand their questions accurately. Ask them if your understanding of their question is correct. Ask them to tell you more about why they’re asking. Sometimes people ask leading questions because they want to tell you something. Let them.

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 at the age of 38. Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/


Talking About MS

By: Stacie Prada

Over the years, it’s gotten easier and easier for me to talk about my MS and respond to questions and comments. When I was newly diagnosed and didn’t understand how MS affects my body, I felt a little anxious when people would bring up the subject expecting me to have all the answers. And sometimes I was just too fatigued to have the energy for thoughtful discussion.

I went from knowing nothing about MS to being an expert in how MS affects me. It took a lot of time and effort, and it’s helped me to manage my health better and be able to respond to questions and comments. Now I think of MS conversations as more of an opportunity to connect than a list of pat responses.

Lose the guilt: I think a lot of my anxiety in these early conversations was due to me not wanting to accept that MS will affect my life. I wanted my will to override the physical restrictions MS was placing on me. It took time for me to fully accept that I can’t control or outsmart my body and do everything I used to do or want to do. While I was holding on to the feeling of inadequacy, I couldn’t discuss my MS without feeling a little shame or guilt. And that mindset makes every conversation uncomfortable for all parties. Accepting I can control some things and not others allows me to talk about my MS with confidence. MS is not a character flaw; it’s a medical fact about how my body functions.

Assess the situation: Think about the event and make a goal. Is it to get through the occasion? Is it to have fun and avoid drama? Is it to connect with certain people and have long, meaningful conversations? Each situation will lend itself to a different response.

Determine their motive: Why are they saying what they’re saying? Are they trying to be mean and judgmental? Or are they seeking assurance that you’re okay and they don’t need to worry about you? There’s a difference. A person genuinely trying to help deserves compassionate response. On the other hand, a miserable person that enjoys drama and putting people down is always going to win at their game. They’re too good at it. They’re not reading articles about how to get better at dealing with people they want to make feel bad. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to these people, avoid them if you can. Solicit someone to be with you that can help you cope, by either sticking up for you or diverting the conversation. Lashing out or trying to make the person feel hurt like you feel won’t help in the long run.

Consider the source: Is the challenge how that person interacts with you, or is it the topic that worries you? There’s a big difference. People that are consistently aggressive or love to put you down because they’re “just kidding” can be dealt with differently than people that are trying to be helpful but are pressing your buttons.

I try to remember if I’ve ever had a good interaction with this person and what made it good. It sometimes gives me some ideas for how to deal with future conversations. It’s also helpful to consider how informed this person is. Even if they know a lot about MS, I know they don’t know my body or experience as well as I do.

Know yourself: When we’re at the top of our game, we might be able to roll with an insensitive comment easier than when we’re tired, feeling overwhelmed, and experiencing MS symptoms. We all have certain things that make us uncomfortable. Knowing and accepting my triggers allows me to get through situations better.

Stay true to yourself. Be you. Be the person you like being. The interactions I’ve regretted have been the ones where I felt baited to respond in a way that doesn’t align with my core. Don’t let another person’s comment dictate your mood or change how you feel about yourself. This can be tough when you’re feeling low or frustrated that you even have to deal with MS at all. The guidelines I aspire to may be different than yours, but I’ll include them here as an example:

  • Be genuine and sincere. Coming from a place of anger allows them to diminish your feelings with justification. Coming from a place of curiosity and connection may not always succeed, but at least you can feel good about how you behaved in a stressful situation.
  • Be funny. Be willing to laugh at your situation if you’re able, whether they’ve made the joke or you have.
  • Lead by example. You teach people how to treat you by how you react and how you treat them.
  • If you blow up, make amends when you can, and forgive yourself.
  • Remember it’s a conversation and not a pop quiz or Q&A. The focus doesn’t have to stay on you. You don’t owe anyone a response to a question that makes you uncomfortable.
  • Remember you don’t have to be perfect, and neither does anyone else.

Invite Connection: Some people are worried about saying the wrong thing, and they may need you to give them permission to talk about your MS. When someone like this asks how you are, answer them honestly. And simply tell them that you’re happy to answer any questions they have. It lessens their anxiety and invites conversation. It also reduces the burden on you to figure out what they want to know.

Ask them what their experience with MS is. Have they known people with MS? What’s their knowledge about it? I didn’t know anything about MS when I was diagnosed, and I knew of one person socially that had MS. I’d seen her once with a walker and visibly struggling, and a year later saw her looking fine. Given my extremely limited knowledge of MS before I was diagnosed, I can relate to people that have no concept of MS or other chronic illnesses.

I’m glad when people have an interest in learning more, and I want to encourage them. Being a safe person to ask questions builds compassion and empathy on both our parts. I’ve learned a lot and come to a greater understanding about myself and others through these MS conversations. Even better, I’ve received a lot of support, felt good about myself, and enjoyed a LOT of laughs.

Stay tuned for part 2 to read about tips for responding to questions.

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 at the age of 38. Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/


Unwanted Advice During the Holidays: How to Cope?

By: Meagan Freeman

During the holidays, we may find ourselves in the idyllic, peaceful scenes depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting. Surrounded by loving family and friends, sipping hot beverages and laughing by a crackling fire. Along with those scenes, we often partake in traditional meals, full of wonderful foods and desserts. The downside of this beautiful family tradition might be the hazards of incredibly high calorie, high fat, high sodium foods that may take a toll on those with multiple sclerosis.

For the past 6 months, I have made tremendous changes in my own diet. I have made fruits and vegetables the focus of my diet, along with low fat, low sodium options. I have worked very hard on maintaining this way of eating, and in general, have been supported by my family and friends in this process. In a few short months, I saw dramatic reductions in my blood pressure (I have hypertension in addition to MS,) and I have also seen large reductions in my cholesterol. In combination with my medication, I have reduced the severity of my MS symptoms through this lifestyle.

Why do the Holidays seem to completely derail healthy lifestyle choices? I have already begun to hear comments from family, such as: Why don’t you just take a break from the diet? Why don’t you skip a few days? What is the big deal? Why are you being so extreme? It is amazing how quickly “tradition” becomes the priority at holiday meals, rather than health. I am a believer in the concept that healthy meals can also be incredibly tasty.

In addition to these dietary comments, we may also find ourselves being showered with the ever-present “helpful advice” from family members about how to best manage our MS. “Have you tried———?” I happen to be a licensed family nurse practitioner, and even with my medical background, I have family and friends who ask me this very question constantly. They send me articles about new research, suggest different alternative and traditional therapies, and question my treatment decisions with regularity. Sometimes I feel a twinge of anger, and I have to hold back an emotional response. Instead, I find the response, “Thank you for letting me know about that, I will look into it,” to be the best.

Sticking to our choices while being gracious recipients of unwanted advice can be especially trying during the holidays. The most important thing to keep in mind is that we are loved and surrounded by people who only want the best for us. This is important to remember when you find yourself at the Thanksgiving dinner table receiving your 50th comment about the food (or lack of) on your plate!

Happy Holidays!

*Meagan Freeman was diagnosed with RRMS in 2009, at the age of 34, in the midst of her graduate education. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner in Northern California, and is raising her 6 children (ranging from 6–17 years of age) with her husband, Wayne. She has been involved in healthcare since the age of 19, working as an Emergency Medical Technician, an Emergency Room RN, and now a Nurse Practitioner. Writing has always been her passion, and she is now able to spend more time blogging and raising MS awareness. She guest blogs for Race to Erase MS, Modern Day MS, and now MSAA. Please visit her at: http://www.motherhoodandmultiplesclerosis.com.


Tips For Managing MS Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the many symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It affects the majority of individuals with an MS diagnosis, and can be challenging to manage. According to Can Do MS, there are many helpful and practical things you can do to help boost your energy and improve your daily activities.

Can Do MS sponsored a webinar in October titled, “Tired of Being Tired? Tips, Tools & Techniques to Keep You Going.” This webinar can be watched on the Archived Webinar section of their website.

To summarize, Can Do MS recommends the “4 P’s” as a potential solution for managing fatigue:

  1. Planning:  Consider using a day planner or phone app to help manage what you may have going on. This could help you track doctors’ appointments, medication regiment, meal planning and shopping trips, and ensure you do not try to do too much on any one specific day.
  2. Prioritizing:  If you are feeling tired on a particular day, decide what is important or must get accomplished and what can be put off for another day. Do those things that need to get done and give yourself permission to push the other tasks off for a day when you have more energy.
  3. Pacing:  This strategy will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed when at work. If you expect a task to take an hour, don’t pressure yourself to get it done in an hour. Instead, give yourself an hour and a half and take a ten minute break for every 20 minutes of work.
  4. Positioning:  This involves rethinking the location of physical things in your life to make your daily activities simpler and more efficient. One example of this would be placing everyday cooking utensils in a convenient, easy to reach place in the kitchen so you do not have to exert yourself every time you reach for them. Making simple adjustments may help you save some energy for use at other times throughout the day.

In addition to managing your fatigue, it might also be a good idea to track your activity to determine what is causing you the most fatigue. This better understanding of your fatigue could help you modify your activities and help you conserve energy throughout the day. MSAA’s free mobile app – My MS Manager, now has a newly added fatigue scale to help you track and measure your fatigue. The app also allows you to connect to physicians and other members of your care team via the app to securely share your progress and reports. Click here to learn more and download the free app.

By following the “4 P’s” and tracking your fatigue, you will hopefully have a better understanding of what activities affect you the most and an easy tool to you manage your daily fatigue better.


New Features Available Now on MSAA’s My MS Manager App

My MS Manager appCheck out the updated features on My MS Manager – MSAA’s mobile phone application, provided free of charge to individuals with MS and their care partners to use on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or your Android mobile device.

My MS Manager, the first-of-its kind app created by MSAA to help individuals with multiple sclerosis better manage their disease, now offers new features – including a way to measure changes in fatigue and a way to connect and share information with your physician!

This free tool allows you to input and store important medical information, track symptoms and disease activity, and generate charts and reports across various metrics such as treatments, moods, symptoms, and more.

Other HIPAA-compliant features include:

  • private reminder settings
  • links to MSAA’s educational materials
  • a fatigue scale
  • **EXCLUSIVE to My MS Manager** – the ability to connect to physicians and members of your healthcare team via the app to share your progress and reports securely and as needed.

“In this world that is increasingly powered by all-things-digital, efficiency and clarity are at the top of my list. Having been diagnosed with MS as a 23-year-old, I wanted to do my best to take control of my health. Having a tool to help me do this has been extremely helpful. The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America’s mobile app, My MS Manager, allows me to not only keep track of all of my notes, meds, doctor info, labs, and journals, but also gives me access to local resources, current MS research updates, and so much more. I can now manage my disease with an incredible amount of clarity and efficiency – things I have not had before. A huge thank you to MSAA, for giving me the tools to be in control.” – Anna Webber, My MS Manager App Ambassador

My MS Manager is now available to everyone in the MS community on your Apple or Android mobile devices.

Google Play Store

Apple App Store

If you need assistance with the My MS Manager app, please call (800) 772-8277, ext. 178 or email us at apphelp@mymsaa.org.


Wellness: The Importance of the Mind

By: Meagan Freeman

When I was diagnosed with MS in 2009, I never would have imagined that my greatest challenge would be overcoming my own demotivation and fatigue. My struggle over the past six years has involved many physical challenges, but I have found that my mind can truly pose the greatest threat to my own wellness.

I have never been diagnosed with depression, but I do cope with extreme fatigue, and the symptoms can be very similar. It is often confusing for patients to determine whether they suffer from a psychological, MS related depression, or rather the well-known phenomenon of MS fatigue, known as lassitude.

I have made many lifestyle changes since my diagnosis, including adopting a plant-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and challenging my cognitive skills with writing and academics. According to my most recent blood pressure readings (I also have hypertension,) and my cholesterol panel, I am incredibly healthy from a cardiovascular standpoint. However, the one issue that remains my greatest obstacle is fatigue. As I sit on the couch, my life often swirls around me at the speed of light.

I sit, and my family moves around the house, carrying on with a normal day. Children play, my husband bustles around cleaning, picking up toys. Friends come and go, family members chatter on the phone. Children are getting ready for school, a trip to the park, or horseback riding lessons. All the while, I sit.

It is a feeling like no other, this inability to get up and take part in my life. This experience of being an observer, rather than an active participant. My mind wants desperately to get up, to join in and be there instead of here. My mind urges me, “Get up! You can do it! Let’s go! Don’t miss out!” But my body doesn’t listen. My life feels like a movie at certain moments. It is as if I am sitting in a theater seat, watching images on a screen. The only difference is, the scenes passing by in front of me are my life. Laughing, running, spinning, jumping children fly past me, friends call, invitations are declined. And my internal voices do battle. The mind vs. the body: The epic saga continues.

How do we cope with MS fatigue? Are there any good answers? Often, we ask ourselves whether we are just being lazy, or could we be clinically depressed? The answer is typically, neither! 80% of MS patients suffer from fatigue, and it isn’t your average, everyday exhaustion. It is specific to MS, and incredibly debilitating.

What can we do to manage this fatigue? First and foremost, see your provider. Make sure you aren’t missing a treatable reason for your fatigue, such as a thyroid disorder, sleep apnea, or anemia. Once those causes are ruled out, our options (as always) are quite limited. Physical therapy might be helpful. Sleep regulation is incredibly important, and should be addressed first. Stress reduction and relaxation techniques may be helpful. Avoiding extreme heat is a must, as heat may dramatically worsen fatigue. In addition, several medications are approved for fatigue management with MS.

Most importantly, make sure you are taking care of yourself in all the classic ways. Adequate hydration, nutrition, and rest are essential parts of your daily routine as an MS patient. Avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol, avoiding smoking, and getting as much activity as possible are all effective ways to manage MS fatigue. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, getting some degree of physical activity can actually increase your energy, even if it is the last thing on Earth you feel like doing. Getting up and off that couch and taking in some sunlight can elevate your mood.

Consider inviting friends to visit you at your home, if you don’t have the strength to go visit them. Being completely honest is essential. Let your friends and family know the degree of your struggle with fatigue, and give them the opportunity to understand. It is important not to isolate and withdraw from friends and family due to fatigue. We often jump to the conclusion that “no one gets it. No one will ever understand.” Maybe they will if you give them a chance. Educating our family and friends about our illness is our responsibility, as patients. We should offer as much advice and information as possible to those in our circle. They will likely be happy to help if they can!

My own fatigue continues to be an ongoing battle, but with my Neurologist’s help, I am learning to manage my symptoms more effectively. I believe the most important thing to remember is that we are not alone. Many of our symptoms are entirely treatable, but we can never hope to see improvement until we reach out and ask for help.

*Meagan Freeman was diagnosed with RRMS in 2009, at the age of 34, in the midst of her graduate education. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner in Northern California, and is raising her 6 children (ranging from 6–17 years of age) with her husband, Wayne. She has been involved in healthcare since the age of 19, working as an Emergency Medical Technician, an Emergency Room RN, and now a Nurse Practitioner. Writing has always been her passion, and she is now able to spend more time blogging and raising MS awareness. She guest blogs for Race to Erase MS, Modern Day MS, and now MSAA. Please visit her at: http://www.motherhoodandmultiplesclerosis.com.


Adapting to My Limitations and Doing a Marathon Anyway

By: Stacie Prada

I walked a full marathon. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to say that. Before I was diagnosed with MS, doing a marathon was something out there that I thought I would do someday. After my MS diagnosis it seemed like a goal I would have to let go.

It’s all the more amazing and rewarding to me now since I wrote in my Life List post I had accepted that doing a marathon was something I wouldn’t do in this life. I thought marathons required that people run them, and my MS symptoms cause too many injuries when I run long distances. Surely 26.2 miles was out of the question now that I had MS.

Drop foot caused me to run off kilter and consistently brought on hip pain and injuries that took months of physical therapy to heal. When I complained that jogging hurt me but I wanted to do running events, my physical therapist responded, “You need to decide if it’s worth it.” She was wise to let me know that it was a choice I was making. It was then that I realized running long distances wasn’t wise for me anymore.

I decided to focus on other activities I enjoyed including walking and hiking. It was after a ten mile walk that a friend suggested I do the Portland Marathon where they encourage walkers to participate. I was immediately excited and signed up in January for the October marathon. Two friends also signed up, and we put together and followed a marathon training program that would allow us to not only do the marathon, but train in a way that would have us prepared and able to enjoy the entire adventure.

We usually upped our distance one mile per week. With 36 weeks to train, we had plenty of time to prepare. Internet sources educated us on how to train, and that was terrific. I’m sure we would have over trained if we’d come up with our own training schedule. We walked one long walk per week and did two to three other workouts each week of yoga, walking or gym cardio and weights. Sometimes we were ambitious and would increase our miles more than one mile per week. But we checked in with ourselves and each other throughout the journey to make sure we weren’t pushing ourselves too hard. The threat of getting sick or injured was enough to keep our drive in check.

We did have some physical challenges to address along the way. New shoes and socks, icing our ankles and feet after walking, coating our feet with Vaseline before walking, and staying hydrated helped us perform beyond our hopes. We started our training hoping to finish the marathon in less than the eight hours required. By race day we felt optimistic that maybe we could finish in six and a half hours. By the end of the marathon we were ecstatic to finish 20 minutes earlier than we ever could have hoped!

I chalk our success up to pacing ourselves, allowing enough time to train, making steady progress, paying attention to our bodies’ needs, and sharing the journey with good friends. We promised ourselves we would make sure we had fun every step of the way, and we did!

It’s empowering to accomplish goals even when I do them differently than I’d imagined. MS is full of adjusting expectations for the future, and modifying how I do something hasn’t diminished the enjoyment and sense of accomplishment. It’s made me appreciate the experience all the more.


MSAA Teams Up with Wines ‘Til Sold Out

WTSO fundraiser

Join MSAA and Wines ‘Til Sold Out (WTSO.com) on Tuesday October 27th for an exciting online wine sale to benefit MSAA in support of the free programs and services offered to the entire MS community.

On October 27th from 8 AM – 8 PM ET, WTSO will donate $1 for every bottle sold to MSAA during their ‘Member Favorites’ Marathon which features customer favorites and the most requested wine deals, all up to 70% off (with free shipping options available). WTSO Marathons are fast-paced days that include upwards of 60 wine deals in one day, each offered one at a time until sold out, with a new deal every 20 minutes or sooner if the previous deal has sold out.

Becoming a member of WTSO.com is free and easy. To sign up and receive reminders about this fundraiser, please visit WTSO.com/invite/msaa.


Putting Myself Out There

By: Stacie Prada 

Having MS has frustrated me, limited me, knocked me down for a bit, and eventually released me from fears I had that kept me from doing certain things and from becoming someone I want to be.

Since being diagnosed with MS in 2008, things I have done for the first time include: yoga, trapeze, traveling abroad, ending a long term marriage, running for and being elected to public office, walking a marathon, and writing. I’m sure there are more, but thinking through my feelings and putting them to paper has been extremely therapeutic for me.

I figure I put so much effort into learning about myself, MS, and how I can live a fulfilling life that maybe sharing my experiences, inspirations and perspective might be helpful to someone else. Or at least it’s something I can refer to when I need to be reminded of things that helped me in the past that I’ve forgotten.

I’m inspired and motivated by people and ideas every day. Hearing what other people with MS have experienced and overcome helps me ease fears and build confidence that I will be able to deal with whatever cards life deals me. And while I put a lot of effort into my health by eating well, exercising, building relationships, sleeping, and contributing to society, I know that I’m not protected from MS disease progression. If MS limits my mobility and my ability to do things in the future, I want to feel secure in knowing I did all I could to slow my disease progression and build a safety net. In the end I believe it will be my attitude that dictates how well I adjust to any difficulties I may have.

It’s with this motivation that I hope to periodically share blog posts in this forum. My name is Stacie, I’m technically a middle aged woman although I feel young, I work full time, I have MS, and I generally feel good about life. Thank you for taking the time to read this!


Happy 50th Anniversary – Medicare Open Enrollment Begins

This year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing into law the Medicare program. Since its inception July 30, 1965 the program has seen many changes. Medicare and Medicaid started as basic insurance programs for Americans who didn’t have health insurance, the programs have changed over the years to provide more and more Americans with access to quality and affordable health care.

Open Enrollment

You don’t need to sign up for Medicare each year. However, each year you have a chance to review your coverage and make changes. Most Medicare beneficiaries should receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their existing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan providers by September 30th.

Individual Medicare plans can change each year—things like cost, coverage, and which providers and pharmacies are in network. So it is important, that each year during the open enrollment period you dedicate some time to review your plan.

During this open enrollment period you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage.

  • You can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa.
  •  You can also switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another; or from one Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan to another.
  • And if you didn’t enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can do so during the general open enrollment.

Get Started

Visit the Medicare Plan Finder at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan. With the Medicare Plan Finder, you can compare plans and learn about the coverage, benefits, and estimated costs for each plan. For further information and questions, contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Want to learn more about Medicare, or the different types of coverage options available? MSAA’s My Health Insurance Guide provides comprehensive, easy-to-follow information and resources for the MS community about Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans.

Need additional help?

Get personalized counseling and assistance in choosing coverage. State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provide free, in depth, one-on-one insurance counseling and assistance. Visit https://www.shiptacenter.org/ to locate the office nearest you.