Now officially serving in her first full term as the state House Health Committee Chairman, Rep. Kathy Rapp is reintroducing legislation (formerly House Bill 174) that would require health insurers to cover treatment plans for Lyme disease or related tick-borne illnesses as prescribed by a patient’s health care practitioner.
“It is no secret that Pennsylvania has ranked highest in the nation for the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease for more than six years now,” said Rapp. “In 2016, Pennsylvania reported 12,200 cases of Lyme disease, which translates to 122,000 new cases and accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s cases alone.”
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted primarily by ticks and is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, such as Babesiosis, Bartonellosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and others, pose a serious threat to the quality of life of many Pennsylvanians, with the frequency of diagnosed and reported Lyme disease cases increasing dramatically over the past several years.
Rapp also shared recent information regarding additional federal funding coming into Pennsylvania from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that can go directly to combatting tick-borne diseases. Previous funding that was allocated for mosquito-borne diseases can now only be used by state and some local health departments in support of surveillance, prevention and education efforts for Lyme disease (and other tick-borne diseases) through CDC’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) cooperative agreement.
In Fiscal Year 2018, the CDC gave Pennsylvania about $152,146 to fight against tick-borne diseases. Pennsylvania received a similar amount for Fiscal Year 2017. “While the CDC funding is significant, we especially need to do a better job at the state level to ensure that every patient diagnosed with Lyme disease and other related tick-borne diseases has access and insurance coverage for available and emerging diagnostics and treatment options,” said Rapp.
Originally introduced during the 2017-18 legislative session, House Bill 174, was unanimously adopted by the House Health Committee and was later advanced to the Senate by a strong veto-proof margin of 188-6 in the House.