With almost 20,000 Australians currently living with multiple sclerosis (MS), awareness is increasing. However, many people are not aware of the potentially devastating financial impact on those involved and indeed on the whole community. This is why MS Research Australia (MSRA) works with Lifewise to raise awareness of the underinsurance issue.
MS Research Australia is also working with Government and the financial services sector to increase awareness of the need for insurance and insurance options for people already diagnosed with a chronic illness. MSRA has provided data on the economic impacts of MS, including the high loss of employment by Australians with the disease. This data is gathered from the Australian MS Life Study (AMSLS), an ongoing national tracking study, based at Canberra Hospital.
MS costs the Australian economy over $2 billion each year, with an estimated $150 million due to lost productivity. Also, people with MS pay $160 million per year out of their own pockets in health costs, yet 80% of People with MS are no longer in full time employment within ten years of diagnosis.
Fiona survives on $235 a week for her food, electricity, gas and telephone bills. Her financial uncertainty has had a significant impact on her health and her personal relationships.
“Life can throw some surprises and when you are young you tend to think you can roll with them. Income protection and life insurance were just not on my radar,” she said.
Carol Cooke was diagnosed with MS in 1998 and was lucky enough to have taken out insurance before diagnosis, which means she has relative financial security to adapt her lifestyle and focus her energy on her passions without MS holding her back. One of these passions is rowing – a sport Carol discovered after diagnosis – and Carol now has her sights set on representing Australia in the 2012 London Paralympics. Carol’s motto is “nothing is impossible if we dare to face our fears and believe in ourselves” and she says “the greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”
Without insurance Carol would have had to spend more time managing her day to day life and less on following her dreams.
To find out more about the AMSLS visit www.msra.org.au/amsls