Assemblymember Barrett: Legislature Makes Progress in the Fight Against Lyme Disease

June 21, 2019

Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Dutchess/Columbia) announced that she authored and passed legislation to further protect New Yorkers from Lyme and tick-borne diseases by authorizing a study on insurance coverage for Lyme and recommendations for farmers on how to best protect against the invasive Asian longhorned tick (A.6146, A.8098).

New York is at the epicenter of a growing Lyme disease public health crisis. In 2017, approximately 9,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported from every corner of the state, and because the disease is so difficult to diagnose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the actual number of cases could be ten times greater. Lyme disease can result in a number of health problems, including long-term issues, such as headaches, painful arthritis, swelling of the joints, and heart and central nervous system problems.

Barrett’s legislation directs the state Department of Financial Services and the Department of Health (DOH) commissioner to study and report on the adequacy of insurance coverage for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases (A.6146). The report would include prevailing reasons for insurance companies to deny coverage of treatment, the number of insured and uninsured in need of long-term treatment of Lyme and tick-borne diseases, specific medical conditions that arise from the diseases and recommendations to ensure adequate coverage.

“In the Hudson Valley, Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are a continuing threat,” Barrett said. “While our family, friends and neighbors continue to become sick from Lyme and TBDs, it is imperative that we focus on prevention, education, and research. New York will now study gaps in insurance coverage for TBDs and explore how we can do better; people shouldn’t have to fight with their insurance companies to receive needed treatment. We will also educate farmers about the Asian longhorned tick, a recently discovered invasive species that has arrived in New York, is a threat to humans and livestock, and should be dealt with head-on.”

To protect New York’s farmers Barrett authored legislation to raise awareness of Asian longhorned ticks – a new invasive species in New York – by requiring the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to develop best-practice recommendations for treatment, prevention, and management of livestock and farm property to protect against them (A.8098). In Asia, the species carries a virus that kills 15% of its victims. New York farmers who depend on livestock to make a living are now at a greater risk for losing their livelihoods as this tick spreads across the North East.

Barrett has been at the forefront of Lyme and tick-borne diseases awareness and prevention. She has authored a number of laws to combat Lyme disease in the Hudson Valley, and she spearheads the #GetTickedOff public advocacy, awareness, education campaign, which can be found on her website at nyassembly.gov/Barrett.