What Happens When Money and Influence Clash with Lyme Disease

In March, Delaware became the latest state to propose bills aimed at either combating Lyme disease or requiring expanded insurance coverage for the disease.

Leaders in the state—which has one of the highest Lyme disease incidence rates in the country—set up a Lyme Disease Prevention Task Force last year to look at ways to curb the spread of the disease.

Based on those recommendations, two bills were introduced: One giving the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control enhanced authority to the deal with ticks, and another setting up a board to oversee Lyme disease education for healthcare professionals in the state.

As these bills wind their way through the legislature, they join a series of other initiatives, some relatively benign and some controversial:

  • Next door to Delaware, Maryland ended a recent legislative session with bipartisan support for a bill requiring doctors to notify patients being tested for possible Lyme disease that laboratory tests can result in both false negatives and false positives.
  • In Massachusetts, a bill requiring insurance companies to cover a patient’s Lyme disease for as long as their physician recommends it enjoys broad support among state legislators. Physicians and insurance companies though, are divided on the costs involved and how state mandates may or may not tie their hands.

These state battles in many ways parallel what’s happening on the national level–on one side, skeptical doctors and insurers question the costs and wisdom of devoting resources to Lyme disease; on the other, doctors and consumer advocates insist that Lyme disease is a public health crisis that needs to be handled sooner rather than later.

And let’s not even get into the controversy of possible collusion between the health insurance industry and the Infectious Diseases Society of America to downplay the seriousness of Lyme disease—though if you want to, you could totally get into it by checking out the documentary “Under the Skin.”

As is so often the case, it all comes down to the intersection of money and influence—who has it, who wants it, and who’s got the skills to get what they want.

Let’s just hope that as these and other bills around the country move forward, the experiences of people fighting Lyme disease are at the heart of the conversation, and that their best interests really are the ultimate goal.

What do you think federal and state governments’ role should be in fighting Lyme disease? Sound off in the comments below!

Ronald Ledsen

Ronald Ledsen

After emigrating from his native Sweden, Ronald spent a stint in the Merchant Marines while trying to work out what he wanted to do with his life. He discovered a love of writing while helping a friend write anonymous Harry Potter fan-fiction online; he discovered meaning to his writing when he began journaling after an anxiety disorder diagnosis. Ronald is most relaxed when spending quiet time with his wife, two sons, and hyperactive cat.

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