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Arkansas Recognized for Access to Treatment for Rheumatic Diseases

Arkansas residents have better access to insurance coverage for treatment because of state legislation.  (Twenty20)
Arkansas residents have better access to insurance coverage for treatment because of state legislation. (Twenty20)
September 12, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas is doing something right in terms of creating affordable treatment options for people living with rheumatic diseases, according to a new report card from the American College of Rheumatology.

Like most of the country, the state received a grade of "C" for lifestyle activities and affordability, but the College gives Arkansas an "A" grade for access to care.

Dr. Christopher Mecoli, a rheumatologist with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, explained: "There's actually really good legislation in Arkansas that helps patients receive medications by preventing a practice called step therapy – a practice employed by insurance companies that requires patients to try a medication that the insurance company prefers, even if the prescribing health-care provider believes it may not be the best choice."

Rheumatic diseases include arthritis, gout and lupus, and 100 other conditions. These conditions affect one in four Americans, and the most recent numbers estimate 91 million people, including individuals who may be undiagnosed.

Treatment for the illnesses cost $140 billion annually, which exceeds the annual cost of cancer care.

According to Mecoli, around 300,000 children have rheumatoid arthritis.

"Rheumatic diseases are not just diseases affecting the elderly," he noted. "There are actually hundreds of thousands of children who live with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. There are not nearly enough board-certified pediatric rheumatologists."

Nationwide, there is one rheumatologist for every 40,000 people. Without early intervention and effective treatment from a rheumatologist, rheumatic diseases can cause pain and long-term physical disability, organ damage, and even premature death.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - AR