Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease that can progress over time. MS is a type of autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks myelin, a protective coating around nerve fibers.
This can cause nerve damage and destruction, which then leads to problems with the central nervous system, including your spine and brain. People with MS can experience pain, chronic fatigue, and numbness, as well as issues with cognition, speech, and mobility.
Some people have years of relapses and remissions before their condition advances to the point of disability, but not everyone has worsening of symptoms.
Most people living with MS don’t experience severe disability. But MS may still impact your quality of life. Some people may require outside assistance, hence the importance of early financial planning.
Here’s how you can financially prepare for life with advanced MS.
Living with MS can be complicated, and there’s no way to know what type of care you’ll need if your condition advances.
Start preparations by making an appointment with a financial advisor. You don’t have to disclose your disease. By doing so, though, your advisor can come up with a strategy that’s unique to your circumstances.
For example, your strategy may include getting a long-term care plan to cover the cost of any assistance you may require in the future. This includes daily living, assisted care living, or skilled nursing care.
Health insurance and Medicare aren’t likely to pay all of these expenses. A supplemental insurance plan can provide peace of mind and a way to cover these costs.
Also, an advisor can assist with estate planning. This includes how to divide your assets, and coming up with a plan for your medical care and dependents in the event that you’re too ill to make decisions for yourself.
Your advisor may also have information on MS grants to assist with housing costs, medication, insurance, and other healthcare needs.
Advanced MS can also impact your ability to work.
You may qualify for disability benefits through Social Security if you’re unable to work at all. If you’re still able to work, but need to take some time off due to a relapse, short-term disability can provide you with monthly income on a short-term basis.
To get short-term disability benefits, you must have a policy. Some employers offer this type of coverage as a workplace benefit, but it’s also possible to buy a policy on your own.
You can discuss your options with your financial advisor. The earlier you get a short-term disability policy, the better. If you wait until you’re older or your condition gets worse, you may not receive approval for a policy, or you might pay a higher premium.
Short-term disability doesn’t replace your income 100 percent, but it can pay up to 40 to 60 percent of your gross income.
It’s also important to have a clear understanding of your health insurance. This includes what the policy covers and what you’re responsible for paying.
You may be aware of copayments, but unfamiliar with deductibles or coinsurance. The deductible is what you pay out of pocket for certain services before insurance kicks in.
Even after paying your deductible, you may be responsible for coinsurance. This is the percentage you pay out of pocket after meeting your deductible.
Understanding your coverage options can help you choose a policy that’s suitable for your health care needs. Plus, it’ll help you prepare financially for out-of-pocket expenses.
If you’re self-employed, you can deduct 100 percent of premiums paid for an individual health insurance plan. If you’re an employee, though, you’re allowed to deduct the cost of total unreimbursed medical expenses that exceeds 10 percent of your adjusted gross income.
Keep track of all of your medical expenses that you pay out of pocket during the year. This includes payments for doctor visits, dental appointments, vision care, preventative care, and surgeries. You can even deduct travel expenses for medical care, such as mileage and parking fees.
Since your healthcare costs may increase as your condition progresses, it’s important to build an emergency fund. You’ll also want to pay down unnecessary debt like credit card debt.
Getting rid of debt can free up cash to add to your emergency fund. And with more money in the bank, it’ll be easier to afford healthcare deductibles.
Daily living with MS can become easier when you improve the accessibility of your home. If necessary, you can also use your savings to make modifications to your home or vehicle.
This can include widening your doorways, installing a wheelchair ramp, lowering your light switches and thermostats, and replacing carpet with tile or hardwood floors. You can also update your bathroom with shower seats and handrails.
Some people prefer term life insurance because it’s cheaper. But term life policies eventually end, at which point many people apply for a new policy. The problem, though, is that a new policy is subject to medical underwriting. Getting life insurance becomes harder once you’re diagnosed with a disease.
If you currently have a term life policy, consider converting this policy to a whole life policy before it expires. Some policies include a rider that allows conversions without medical underwriting.
A life insurance policy can cover your final expenses, plus provide your beneficiaries with income in the event that you pass away. Also, whole life policies earn a cash value, which you can borrow against.
You can use some of the accumulated value to cover your healthcare costs. Insurance companies deduct the borrowed amount from the death benefit paid to your family.
MS is an unpredictable, potentially disabling condition, so financial planning is important for meeting your healthcare needs in the future. Speak with a financial advisor for guidance on how to prepare financially. This can include buying a long-term medical care plan, increasing your insurance, paying off debt, and building an emergency fund.