House lawmakers worked on a bill Monday that would require more insurance coverage for tick-borne disease testing – focusing on more than just Lyme disease.
The bill comes from Rep. Megan Murray, a first-term Democrat from Amherst.
She says her constituents tell her their doctors usually prioritize Lyme disease testing after a tick bite.
“It’s sometimes a several-months to a year-long process until they’re identifying what’s actually going on,” she says.
Her bill would require insurers to cover more advanced, broad-spectrum tests up front – tests that could catch Lyme, or other, far rarer illnesses like anaplasmosis and babeosis.
Murray says her goal is to get doctors and insurers on the same page about testing, in order to prevent delayed diagnoses and worse health outcomes, keep costs down for patients and insurers, and better confront the rising problem of tick-borne diseases.
“I do not want people to not be out and hiking and supporting our state parks,” Murray says. “We just need to be doing a better job at identifying the disease mechanisms, supporting the coverages, and getting a handle on the best way to manage the vector-borne illnesses and diseases.”
A recent federal report found that Lyme disease costs patients an average of $3,000 out of pocket due to spotty insurance coverage. Tick bites and Lyme infections are increasing in New England, in part due to warming winters.
Murray’s bill, which has bipartisan co-sponsors, got a House subcommittee work session Monday.
She says she hopes it will dovetail with other ongoing state efforts and potential federal funding for tick bite prevention and treatment.