Wednesday, May 26, 2010

World MS Day: How does MS Affect Employment?

Today, Wednesday, May 26th is the 2nd Annual World MS Day. The focus for World MS Day this year is employment. The importance of employment extends beyond financial independence. Work and other meaningful occupations help to maintain positive health and well being. Research indicates that people living with MS are vulnerable to becoming unemployed. The loss of employment cannot be ascribed simply to having MS, but is a combination of disease characteristics and workplace, social and demographic factors. A recent study conducted by the Multiple Sclerosis International Foundation found that almost half of the people diagnosed with this disease were no longer employed three years later. Because many people living with MS have long term disability, they have to work less hours, change their occupation, or stop working completely. The National MS Society recommends that people with MS know their options and what services are available to them. These options are not limited to their employment—knowing medical and social resources are also important and can affect employment status. Additionally, employers have a responsibility to their employees to provide the necessary accommodations and support.

What policy initiatives can be done at the state level to address these concerns? This is what we are pursuing in North Carolina:
  • Greater access to health insurance for workers with chronic illnesses and disabilities (Inclusive Health, Medicaid Buy-In, HIPP)
  • Support programs that leverage public and private funding for employment counseling, worksite assessment for necessary accommodations and assistive technology.
  • Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Increase the share of workers guaranteed coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Explore laws that promote workplace flexibility such as “Right to Request”
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