Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have required health insurers to cover long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease, acknowledging the concerns of infectious disease specialists who called such treatment ineffective and sometimes harmful.
Baker submitted alternative legislation intended to assuage patients who say that weeks or months of antibiotics are the only remedy for those with lingering symptoms from Lyme disease.
The governor’s bill calls for a series of listening sessions on appropriate Lyme treatment. MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, would then revise its Lyme disease benefits, and commercial insurers would be required to offer the same Lyme coverage as MassHealth.
In his veto letter, Baker wrote, “I support comprehensive coverage and access to Lyme disease treatment. There is considerable uncertainty in the medical community, however, as to the clinical effectiveness and the safety of long-term antibiotic therapies to treat this illness.”
But he added, “My objections to the proposed legislation should not be mistaken for a lack of concern that persons suffering from Lyme disease receive access to proper medical treatment.”
Lawmakers could override Baker’s veto by a two-thirds vote as they wrap up the legislative session’s work Saturday and Sunday.