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Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B medical insurance helps pay for some services and products not covered by Part A (hospital insurance) for Americans aged 65 and older who have worked and paid into the system. It also provides health insurance to younger people with disabilities.

Part B coverage begins once a patient meets his or her deductible ($147 in 2013), then typically Medicare covers 80% of approved services, while the remaining 20% is paid by the patient, either directly or indirectly by private Medigap insurance.

For clinical labs and pathology groups, Part B covers laboratory and diagnostic tests. Laboratory tests include certain blood tests, urinalysis, tests on tissue specimens, and some screening tests. They must be provided by a laboratory that meets Medicare requirements.

Complex rules are used to manage the benefit, and advisories are periodically issued which describe coverage criteria. On the national level these advisories are issued by CMS, and are known as National Coverage Determinations (NCD). Local Coverage Determinations (LCD) apply within the multi-state area managed by a specific regional Medicare Part B contractor, and Local Medical Review Policies (LMRP) were superseded by LCDs in 2003.

Medicare Part B payments make up about 15% of the revenue of the two biggest national lab companies. By contrast, it is common for community labs to have between 30% and 65% of their revenue come from Medicare Part B payments.

Part B coverage can also be provided by private insurers through Medicare Advantage Plans. Enrollment in private Medicare Advantage plans has more than doubled since 2006, according to the New York Times. As these plans gain popularity, clinical labs and pathology groups continue to find themselves without access to patients they once served. Medicare beneficiaries now enrolled in Advantage plans comprise nearly one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries.

Generally speaking, growth in Medicare Advantage enrollment favors the national labs, with private insurers providing them exclusive network contracts. This means less market access to these patients by community labs.

OIG 2020 Plan of Work to Review Billing for Medicare Part B Tests

Since October, the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) has published two versions of its plan of work for 2020. In both versions, the inspectors highlighted OIG’s efforts to review compliance with Medicare Part B billing requirements for clinical labora…

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November 25 2019 intelligence late breaking lab news

Medicare lab test price cuts mandated by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA) are eroding the finances of urology groups that do in-office clinical laboratory testing. In the November issue of Urology Times, urologist Robert A. Dowling, MD, wrote a news story that identified the cut…

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2019’s Top 10 Lab Stories Reveal Major Laboratory Industry Trends

This is an excerpt of a 3,163-word article in the Dec. 16, 2019 issue of THE DARK REPORT (TDR). The full article is available to members of The Dark Intelligence Group. CEO SUMMARY: There was plenty of bad news in 2019 for clinical labs and pathology groups. Yet lurking inside this new…

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Aetna, Anthem to Pay Pathology Groups Less

TWO OF THE NATION’S LARGER HEALTH INSURERS—AETNA AND ANTHEM— ARE CUTTING WHAT THEY PAY for the professional component of certain clinical and anatomic pathology codes. In its communications with pathology groups about this policy change, Aetna says it will no longer pay for most clinical laborat…

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The Bad News: Disruption. The Good News: Opportunity!

CEO SUMMARY: There was an interesting consensus that emerged from the 80 sessions and 118 speakers at this year’s Executive War College in New Orleans earlier this month. The consensus centered around two themes. One theme is disruption, which is bad news for those labs that hope to mai…

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“I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”

Across the nation, clinical laboratories struggle to correctly interpret and follow the new National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) guidelines that took effect on Jan. 1. A financial disaster lies ahead for many labs. “The denials are very high right now and those denials are nationwide,” stat…

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LabCorp to Acquire Iowa’s Metropolitan Medical Lab

CEO SUMMARY: Without making an announcement, LabCorp said it would acquire the Metropolitan Medical Laboratory, a privately-held laboratory founded in 1914 in Davenport, Iowa. The local newspaper reported that some 136 employees from Metro Medical’s laboratory operations in Moline, Ill….

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COLA: GAO Should Address PAMA’s Effect on Patients

CEO SUMMARY: In a recent statement, COLA, an organization that accredits clinical labs, expressed strong concern about how a report from the Government Accountability Office did not address how the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (PAMA) affects patients’ access to testing, esp…

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PAMA Price Cuts Reduce Revenue at LabCorp, Quest

This story was updated from the original on March 27, 2019, and includes corrected information in three places. CEO SUMMARY: In their respective earnings reports for the fourth quarter and the full year of 2018, executives at both Laboratory Corporation of America and Quest Diagno…

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PAMA Price Cuts Reduce Revenue at Two National Labs

This is an excerpt from a 1,500-word article in the Feb. 25, 2019 issue of THE DARK REPORT. The full article is available to members of The Dark Intelligence Group. CEO SUMMARY: In their respective earnings reports for the fourth quarter and the full year of 2018, executives at both La…

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