ALBANY -- New York State lawmakers are poised to vote this year on a bill recently introduced to the state Senate which would strengthen the state's ability to combat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
"Lyme disease is a very serious and growing public health problem, complicated by the difficulty in diagnosing it and made more burdensome by the exorbitant costs patients bear with long term treatment," said the bill's co-sponsor Sen. Chris Jacobs. "Passage of these Lyme disease bills is a great next step in our collective efforts to advance research, education and prevention so we can improve outcomes for families affected by these illnesses."
State documents illustrate that currently, insurance companies are not required to cover the long-term treatments associated with chronic Lyme disease, but the new bill aims to change that.
The bill requires the State Health Care Quality and Cost Containment Commission to meet annually and to submit a report on the impact of providing insurance coverage for Lyme and tick-borne disease, Senate documents show.
Additionally, the legislation would authorize the commissioner of health to award grants for graduate medical education on the topic, as well as designate centers for Lyme and tick-borne disease assessment and treatment.
"In a state as compassionate as ours and a state that is so progressive and on the cutting edge in medical advancements and quality of care, families should not have to choose between enduring a tremendous financial burden or sacrificing their quality of life," said Jacobs. "The action we took today and the funding approved in the budget are all steps in the right direction the senator concluded."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, New York state has the third-highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the entire country.
In 2013, the state Senate formed a task force in order to develop legislation to combat tick-borne diseases. Last year, in order to address the issue, that body secured $400,000 within this year's state spending plan, according to state documents.
Also last year, legislation was passed which requires the state's department of health to design and implement a tick-borne disease prevention program and deliver some age-appropriate educational materials to schools throughout the state.