New Illinois bill requires insurers
to test and treat osteoporosis
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[AUG. 4, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation Monday that requires insurers and HMOs to cover tests and treatment for osteoporosis, the debilitating disease that causes brittle bones and can leave its victims bedridden due to injuries. Senate Bill 2744, which had strong backing from health care advocates, will require insurers and HMOs in Illinois to pay for bone density measurements and medical care for osteoporosis.

"This legislation provides a common-sense approach to confronting a preventable disease that afflicts hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans," Gov. Blagojevich said. "Early detection can prevent osteoporosis and can even reverse bone loss, leading to significant improvement in our citizens' later years in life."

Senate Bill 2744 was sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, and Sen. Mattie Hunter, D- Chicago.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports on its website, www.statehealthfacts.org, that just 13 other states require some level of testing and treatment for osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones grow increasingly fragile and more likely to break. Although all bones can be affected, it most often results in fractures of the hip, spine and wrist. A hip fracture almost always requires hospitalization and major surgery. The highly debilitating disease can lead to rapid functional decline and lowered self-esteem for its victims.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 10 million individuals in the United States already have osteoporosis, and 18 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for this disease. If the incidence in Illinois is similar to the national average, that would mean that 450,000 Illinoisans have osteoporosis and 810,000 have low bone mass.

 

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Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Of the 10 million Americans estimated to have osteoporosis, 8 million are women and 2 million are men.

While it is often thought of as an older person's ailment, osteoporosis can afflict people of any age. Certain treatments have been found effective in preventing further bone loss and can even reverse bone loss. Therefore, screening and early detection can often lead to prevention of full-blown osteoporosis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a comprehensive osteoporosis treatment program includes a focus on proper nutrition and exercise as well as safety measures to prevent falls that may result in fractures. In addition, a physician may prescribe a medication to slow or stop bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce fracture risk.

The state's Circuit Breaker pharmaceutical assistance program pays for prescription drug treatment for osteoporosis and certain other diseases for Illinois seniors and disabled individuals whose income is less than $21,218 and for couples whose income is less than $28,480.

[News release from the governor's office]

 

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