Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation this week preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for Lyme disease treatments.
This is good news for residents here in the Eastern Panhandle, which has the highest number of tick bite reports in West Virginia.
The legislation was promoted by a Berkeley Springs couple, Eric and Linda Pritchard. Since at least the summer, the couple has been conducting a public information campaign. If it weren’t for the couple’s diligence, this law may not have been passed.
We’re grateful for their hard work, and for the efforts of Eastern Panhandle lawmakers, who recognized insurance companies denial of such coverage was unacceptable.
The West Virginia legislation was endorsed by state Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 242 was also co-sponsored by Sens. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson. A comparable House Bill 4328 was co-sponsored by Del. Jill Upson, R-Jefferson.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria infection that is primarily transmitted to humans through bites from deer ticks.
The new law requires insurance companies to pay costs for Lyme disease treatments, including detection tests and antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
The disease is painful for those suffering from it.
Symptoms of Lyme disease can vary depending on the stage of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Early symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and rash.
Without proper treatment, these symptoms grow worse. Days to months after a tick bite, the symptoms may progress to severe headaches and neck stiffness, arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, facial palsy, pain in tendons, muscles, joints and bones, heart palpitations, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain and problems with short-term memory, the CDC reports.
Clearly, Lyme disease can turn into something serious if not treated.
According to Eric Pritchard, insurance companies, however, have adopted policies that rely on medical authorities, such as the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which have questioned whether long-term antibiotic treatment is effective for conditions associated with chronic Lyme disease.
Those suffering from chronic Lyme disease, however, often have low quality of life. Treatment – which is best decided by a patient and his/her doctor and not insurance companies — increases the possibility something can be done to help these patients.
But treatments are often expensive.
Requiring insurance companies to cover such treatments is the humane thing to do. We’re happy to see lawmakers in the state recognize this..