Rep. Josh Cutler joined his colleagues and over 100 advocates at the State House this week in support of legislation that would require insurance companies in Massachusetts to offer coverage for Lyme disease treatment. Rep. Cutler is a co-sponsor of H. 901, An Act relative to Lyme disease treatment coverage, which aims to help bridge the gap between patients being prescribed treatment for Lyme disease and their ability to pay for it through insurance coverage;
Advocates from across the Commonwealth joined Representative David Linsky (D-Natick), Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) and Representative Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers) in presenting testimony before the Joint Committee on Financial Services in Gardner Auditorium on Tuesday. H. 901 is co-sponsored by 124 lawmakers from both parties in both branches of the Legislature.
“As the father of a son who suffered from Lyme disease, this legislation is personal for me,” said Rep. Linsky. “The stories I have heard from advocates around the Commonwealth and constituents in my district affected by this epidemic are heartbreaking. It is unconscionable to me that in 2015 some health insurance carriers deny patients coverage for Lyme disease treatment. Now is the time to act.”
Lyme disease is the largest vector-borne disease in the United States, affecting more people than Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus combined. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 5,665 new cases of Lyme disease were reported in the Commonwealth in 2013, a 12 percent increase in reported cases over 2012 and the highest incidence rate in Massachusetts history. It is estimated that individuals with chronic Lyme disease have an approximate mean annual cost of treatment of $16,199 a year, with chronic illness accounting for 84% of Lyme disease healthcare costs.
Rep. Cutler added: "We know that the South Shore has unfortunately become a hot spot for Lyme Disease and too many residents are suffering from its debilitating effects. This is an important bill to help those with the significant cost burden that treatments can often require."
“I can say that we were very pleased with the large turnout at the hearing, and very encouraged by the overwhelming support for this bill at the State House,” said Susan Fairbank-Pitzer, a member of the Massachusetts Lyme Legislative Task Force. “Passage of this legislation would be so wonderful for so many Lyme patients, giving sick patients the opportunity to fully recover and get back to productive lives."
“Both bills are life-saving legislation that will help thousands of residents in the Commonwealth suffering from Lyme disease by increasing their access to physician-recommended treatment,” said Trish McCleary, co-founder of both the Sturbridge Lyme Awareness of Massachusetts (S.L.A.M.) and the Massachusetts Lyme Coalition.
According to a 2014 report from the Center of Health Information and Analysis, requiring coverage for Lyme disease treatments by fully-insured health plans would result in an average annual increase, over five years, to the typical member’s monthly health insurance premiums of between a negligible amount (0.00%) and $0.13 (0.02%) per year. Both H.901 and S.502 await further action by the Joint Committee on Financial Services.