2011-12-22 / Local & State

Hess Lyme Disease Legislation Approved By House Services Committee

Legislation designed to promote better treatment of and education about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses was approved by the House Human Services Committee and sent to the floor, Rep. Dick Hess (R-Bedford/ Fulton/Huntingdon) said last Wednesday. Hess ushered the bill through the committee process, culminating in a nearly unanimous vote of 19 to 1.

“There is strong bipartisan support to get better treatment of this debilitating disease, and to launch an education program to raise awareness of it around the commonwealth,” said Hess. “Given the fact that Pennsylvania has had the highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the nation, we need to take action to help those afflicted in the best way that we can.”

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that since 2001, Pennsylvania has ranked among the top three states in the number of reported cases of Lyme disease. In 2009, the commonwealth reported 4,950 confirmed cases, which was the most in the nation. There are no current laws in Pennsylvania that mandate specific health insurance coverage of these diseases.

House Bill 272 would require health insurers to cover treatment of Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses if the diagnosis and a treatment plan are documented. In addition, a task force would be created to work with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Department of Health to create a statewide education effort on Lyme disease and related maladies.

The bill was amended in committee by adding a direction to the Department of Health to identify and apply for public and private grants to assist in funding the programs in the measure. In addition, expanding the duties of the task force, its membership and adding the development of an intensive surveillance program were added.

“The victims of this disease and other tick-borne illnesses suffer greatly and should be cared for properly,” said Hess. “The hearings that we have had, the many conversations with professionals and other interested parties have enabled us to move this forward. I am pleased with the wide support this measure is getting, and I look forward to a vote by the full House.”

Hess said the progress with the legislation is the result of a great deal of cooperation, both in and outside of state government.

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