Harrisburg, PA (WENY)-- Lyme disease patients in Pennsylvania are waiting for the state Senate to act on a Bill that would ensure long-term treatment. House Bill 629 passed the House back in April, and advocates are pushing for the Senate to take action.

Lyme disease and other tick-borne illness cases are extremely prevalent in Pennsylvania, and Representative Kathy Rapp (R- Warren, Crawford, Forest), sponsor of HB629, wants to make sure those patients are covered.

“I really am proud to be the sponsor, because I don’t think there’s one Legislator in this building that doesn’t have a constituent who is suffering from this terrible disease,” explains Rep. Rapp.

House Bill 629 would require health insurance companies to cover Lyme disease or other tick-borne illness treatment plans prescribed by a doctor, whether the prescribed treatment is for short or long term care. Advocates for the proposal say right now, health insurance companies are denying paying for treatment if it’s for long-term care.

“We’re asking for the doctors to make the decision with their patient as they are licensed to do, and that the insurance companies cover that and not practice medicine by denying a viable treatment,” says Julia Wagner, President of the PA Lyme Resource Network.

According to the CDC, Pennsylvania had 7,920 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 2018. That’s the highest number of confirmed cases in the country, beating the next highest state, New Jersey, by more than 5,000 cases. Legislators say in addition to making sure all treatment options are open to all patients, Lyme disease detection education and training should be a priority.

“The doctors have a lot on their plates, but we need to get them kind of honed in on this, and really understand and not miss the diagnosis. They are human, but we want to try to help them not miss the diagnosis,” says Representative Rosemary Brown (R- Monroe, Pike).

HB629 passed the House in April. It’s been sitting in the Senate Insurance and Banking Committee awaiting action ever since.

“Give calls to your Senate and give that enthusiastic support so that Bill actually gets to the floor for a vote,” Rep. Rapp adds.

More data from the CDC regarding Lyme disease can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/datasurveillance/index.html.