To Your Health: Lyme disease bill could help victims
Excerpted from Montgomery Media ( Posted: 11/08/2012)
Lyme disease and tick-borne related illnesses are commonly associated with summer, but according to Bob Oley, an engineer and public health/Lyme disease specialist in Blue Bell, lots of ticks hide out in those leaves being raked up this time of year.
“Leaves can be loaded with ticks,” so people may not want their children jumping into them, Oley said. “There’s very few places where you won’t find [ticks],” which are around year-long.
“Pennsylvania has the dubious distinction of being No. 1 for the number of cases of Lyme disease in the country,” he said.
Between 9,000 and 10,000 new cases of Lyme disease are reported in the state every year, but some believe probably 90,000 to 100,000 new cases occur yearly, he said. Either the doctors don’t report it, or “the rest don’t realize they have Lyme disease and haven’t seen a doctor,” Oley said.
With a nod to the prevalence of Lyme disease in the state, a long-pending House bill calling for a task force to recommend prevention and educational programs, establish a surveillance program and mandate health insurers cover longer courses of treatment if prescribed by a patient’s physician passed the House 187-8 in October.
The Senate voted on the bill, passing it 49-0, before the session ended, but took out the health insurance provision and changed the surveillance program from a “shall” to a “may,” said Julia Wagner, president of the Montgomery County Lyme Information and Support Group and chair of the LymeActionPA coalition.
State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, said he has introduced bills regarding Lyme disease since the mid-1980s and for the past four or five years bills calling for mandated insurance coverage and a surveillance program as well as the educational provision regarding Lyme disease. The chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, however, would not report the bill out of committee with those provisions, he said, so a watered down version was voted on in the full Senate.
“Some believe it’s chronic Lyme disease, others don’t,” said Greenleaf, who held a hearing on the matter. “That’s the controversy.”
Wagner, of Lower Gwynedd, who has pushed for such legislation — Greenleaf said he would introduce it again — said she was confidant similar bills would be introduced in early 2013, but acknowledged the difficulty in getting the Senate committee onboard with the insurance and surveillance provisions.