Families with Lyme disease, insurance agency respond to bill for more coverage

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – State lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that would set new requirements for health insurers to cover additional treatments for Lyme disease.

House Bill 629 would require insurers to cover treatment plans for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, regardless of whether the doctor’s prescribed treatment plan is for short-term or long-term antibiotics. The measure passed the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

“I had a lot of problems with sleep disruptions, the classic aches and pains, especially in my legs, nausea, brain fog, weepiness, separation anxiety,” said 18-year-old Sarah Wagner, who has Lyme disease.

“So, for me, my memory loss and cognitive is not always there. I can’t put sentences together, even though a minute later I might remember the words and know what it is,” said 18-year-old Andrew Zulli, who has Lyme disease.

Sarah and Andrew credit their treatment of Lyme disease to long-term antibiotics.

“His grades had suffered from fourth grade on, didn’t even really like going to school, and this year he’s made honor roll each time,” said Andrew’s mom, Jacquelyn Zulli, the vice president and director of legislative affairs and policy for the Pennsylvania Lyme Resource Network.

Both Sarah and Andrew’s moms also have Lyme disease. The pair became advocates for treatment and worked on House Bill 629 because of what they’ve gone through.

“The cost out of pocket was over half a million dollars,” said Sarah’s mom, Julia Wagner, president of the Pennsylvania Lyme Resource Network.

Jonathan Greer, the vice president of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, had Lyme disease himself, but points out that the National Institutes of Health says, “long-term antibiotic or alternative treatments for Lyme disease have been associated with serious complications.”

“We have historically objected to long-term antibiotic therapies for any duration because of concern that it could be harmful to a patient,” said Greer.

Pennsylvania has ranked highest in the nation for confirmed cases of Lyme disease for the last seven years.

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