LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas is one of 16 states whose legislators are working to help families gain access to medical care for a debilitating disorder that can afflict children after a bout of strep throat.
It is a neuroimmune disorder commonly known as PANDAS, which stands for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. Symptoms may include trouble sleeping, loss of math skills and handwriting skills and severe separation anxiety.
Some parents have reported that the symptoms became so severe that they had difficulty recognizing their child.
Related to PANDAS is pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome, known as "PANS." It is a clinically defined disorder characterized by the sudden onset of obsessive-compulsive symptoms or eating restrictions, accompanied by two or more symptoms of acute behavioral deterioration or motor and sensory changes.
Antibiotics and psychiatric care can relieve the severity of the symptoms, but they can be very costly. A foundation that supports families who have been afflicted says that medicine can cost from $5,000 to $17,000 per dose.
Consistent health insurance coverage is important for affected families, due to the high cost of treatment. With that in mind, the legislature approved Act 878 of 2019, which takes steps to make health coverage in Arkansas inconsistent.
The act creates a panel of health care professionals, educators, insurance representatives and elected officials. Under Act 878 the panel will report to the joint Senate and House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committees at its December meeting.
A similar panel created by Texas lawmakers issued its first report in September.
The report will include standards for diagnosing and treating PANS and PANDAS. When the standards are in place, health insurance companies can use them to set coverage amounts. According to language in Act 878, legislation that mandates coverage will be considered at the next regular session.
he act encourages the governor to include mandatory insurance coverage on the call of a special session, if he calls a special session before the 2021 regular session convenes.
Act 878 also charges the panel of health and insurance experts with raising awareness, in schools, in health clinics and among families. According to support groups, the disorder is often misdiagnosed.