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Over doctors’ objections, Legislature mandates coverage for long-term Lyme disease treatment

Over doctors’ objections, Legislature mandates coverage for long-term Lyme disease treatment

With just three minutes left before the midnight end of the 2015-2016 legislative session, Massachusetts lawmakers voted to require insurers to cover long-term antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease. The mandate became law with the stroke of Senate President Stan Rosenberg’s pen, over the objections of Gov. Charlie Baker, business groups and infectious disease specialists. “Hundreds of people came to various members of the Legislature and told us about their battle with long-term Lyme disease and how they wanted to have long-term antibiotic treatment but their health insurance wouldn’t cover it,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick. “We feel that it is our duty to make sure that these people who want to have this treatment and have it prescribed by a licensed physician don’t have to go into financial ruin in order to get it.” But Lora Pellegrini, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, said new mandates negatively impact small businesses and individuals who must pay more for insurance coverage. “Over time, those mandates add up,” Pellegrini said. She noted that while smaller businesses must abide by state mandates, the 60 percent of businesses — mostly large companies — that are self-insured do not. Pellegrini said she worries about lawmakers passing the bill over the objections of doctors. “It does set a precedent that the Legislature’s just passed a mandate where there’s no scientific evidence that this will actually help patients, and the experts said it will hurt patients,” Pellegrini said. Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can cause fever, headaches and fatigue. Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease...
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