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Battling Lyme Disease On Beacon Hill

The battle for long-term treatment of Lyme disease makes its way to Beacon Hill. The latest statistics from the CDC show that 96% of confirmed Lyme disease cases are in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, and Massachusetts has the third highest rate of Lyme disease in any state. That’s why an amendment to the House’s version of Massachusetts' budget bill was added which would require insurance companies to cover longterm antibiotic therapy to treat the tick borne illness. 

However, not everyone thinks it’s such a great idea. The Boston Globe recently ran an editorial calling the idea a “prescription for trouble,” arguing the CDC doesn’t recognize so-called chronic Lyme disease:

'Medical specialists believe the persistent ailments are likely caused by ‘residual damage to issues and the immune system that occurred during the infection.’

So, is mandating payment the best way to go? Or should we be trying harder to prevent this disease to begin with? A sufferer, Stacy Hayes-Geer (@Stacy_Hayes) and Representative James Cantwell (@repjimcantwell) joined Jim on Monday night to discuss. 

Hayes-Geer went from being an executive, "making a six-figure income," before suffering from Lyme disease. She has since stopped working, and can no longer afford to treat the disease after a full year of antibiotics. Now, she spends her day with a home health aide. Her visit to Greater Boston was the first time since last week that she was out of bed. "I pretty much count the minutes until my daughter and my husband get home because I am by myself," said Hayes-Geer. And she is in "agonizing pain."

Massachusetts currently spends $10 million a year on mosquitoes and $60,000 on tick borne illnesses. Representative Cantwell said that while the CDC says 300,000 people a year are infected, "most of the estimates say there are four times more than that." He also cited climate change as a factor that could cause rates of Lyme disease to climb. 

The proposed Lyme bill would add 11 cents to the average policy. Hayes-Geer said the possibility of this bill gives her hope. 

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