Wall Street Journal Publishes FAIR Health Data on Lyme Disease

July 18, 2018

In June, the Wall Street Journal published an article comparing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics to FAIR Health data on Lyme disease. The article generated interest from, among others, the patient advocacy group LymeDisease.org.

Published digitally on June 22 and in print the next day, Jo Craven McGinty’s Wall Street Journal article, “Lyme Disease: An Even Bigger Threat Than You Think,” investigated underreporting of Lyme disease cases. The CDC estimates that while approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC each year, the number of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease may be 10 times greater, around 300,000. FAIR Health data cited in the Wall Street Journal article showed that for 2016, FAIR Health documented 747,101 claim lines with a Lyme disease diagnosis in our repository of private healthcare claims.

Claim lines do not reflect the specific number of individuals with Lyme disease but rather the number of encounters that individuals with a diagnosis of that disease have with the healthcare system. Therefore, direct comparisons of claims data with statistics that represent distinct individuals with a Lyme disease diagnosis must be viewed carefully.

The Wall Street Journal article noted that several states that report relatively few cases of Lyme disease to the CDC have large numbers of claim lines for that illness. California, for example, reported 90 confirmed cases to the CDC in 2016 but had 46,820 claim lines for that year in the FAIR Health database.

The article was picked up by many other media outlets and was reported on in an article on the website of LymeDisease.org. Previously, a 2017 article by FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd in the American Journal of Managed Care reported other FAIR Health findings on Lyme disease.