HV Congressmen Call On NY Governor To Sign Lyme Bill

Dec 4, 2014

Credit Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Two New York congressmen are the latest voices calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation concerning Lyme disease treatment as state lawmakers wonder about the holdup.

Hudson Valley Congressmen Chris Gibson, a Republican, and Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, have teamed up to urge Governor Cuomo to sign legislation the state legislature passed in June that would essentially expand treatment options for patients suffering from Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses. Here’s Gibson.

“What it does is ensure that our doctors who are treating our chronic Lyme sufferers that they would not be subject to investigation merely because of the modality of the prescription from the doctor,” says Gibson. “So, again, this is a very precise bill that, and to read the specific language, that they would not be investigated based solely upon the recommendation or provision of a treatment modality by a licensee.” 

And here’s Maloney.

“This is one of the most urgent issues facing us in the Hudson Valley. There are issues that are important and then there are issues that are urgent. And when you meet a family that’s struggling with Lyme disease, it’s an urgent issue,” says Maloney. “And we need to make sure we are getting the best treatment for folks who are suffering from this disease.”

Republican Kemp Hannon sponsored the bill in the Senate, while Democrat Didi Barrett authored the bill in the Assembly.

“Well I understand that the governor’s office is seriously looking at it and working on it and I do believe that that’s a good sign,” says Barrett. “And I’m hopeful that he will sign it by the end of the year, but I do encourage people to continue to put pressure on his office by sending those e-mails and making phone calls.”

Again, Gibson.

“I think this is very important that the governor sign it. Once again, not a single member of the Assembly or the Senate voted against this,” Gibson says. “And given how precise this bill is and in terms of the positive impact that it would bring about, we are, in a bipartisan way, we’re asking the governor to sign the bill.”

A Cuomo spokesman would say only that the bill is under review. At the end of October, the Democratic governor told the Poughkeepsie Journal that he wants to sign the bill but there are some technical issues. Gibson says it is unusual for him to formally call on the governor to sign legislation, and he has not spoken with the governor directly.

“I have heard that the governor said he wants to sign the bill and I hope that he will,” says Gibson. “We’re running short on time, as you know, this is a 31 December action requirement, so I hope that we can get this good bill from New York State enacted before that time.”

Here’s Maloney.

“I’m very encouraged by the governor’s public comments on this,” Maloney says. “I know he wants to sign the legislation. I know he shares our deep concern about this issue, and we’re hoping we can get it done.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. 96 percent are concentrated in 13 states, including New York, with the highest rates reported in Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Putnam, Orange, and Ulster Counties. Barrett at the end of October put out a video highlighting her bill’s importance and calling on the governor to sign it. In her video, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announces his support of the legislation, as does Chairwoman of the Hudson Valley Lyme Disease Association Jill Auerbach.

“A 3-year-old child has 32 ticks removed from her body after visiting our local park, you know it’s way past time for something to be done.”

Her husband Ira also is in the video.

“This legislation, which was initiated thanks to Assemblymember Didi Barrett, will give relief to thousands upon thousands of patients, sick people, here in New York State, who will be able to find a physician who will treat them as an individual rather than being discarded after two-to-three weeks of antibiotics and told it’s all in their head,” says Ira Auerbach. “This has got to change. Too many people are getting sicker and sicker.”

Both Gibson and Maloney say the New York bill is an important part of ongoing efforts to advance treatment and combat Lyme disease. Gibson has authored legislation that passed the House that prioritizes federal research on Lyme and related diseases and gives patients, advocates, and physicians a seat at the table. The bill calls for the formation of an interagency working group consisting of federal agencies and non-federal partners that would inform CDC guidelines. Maloney and fellow Democrats Paul Tonko of New York and Peter Welch of Vermont are among the 19 co-sponsors. A Senate version has not been introduced.