AT THIS MOMENT, THE ENTIRE CLINICAL LABORATORY INDUSTRY STANDS on the precipice of the most financially disruptive development in the past three decades. On Jan. 1, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will implement deep cuts to the Medicare Part B Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule.
There is additional unwelcome news. CMS now says that, in 2018, these fee cuts will total $670 million, an increase of almost 70% over the $400 million in fee cuts that CMS and the federal Office of Inspector General said to expect in September 2016.
With just 83 days remaining between now and Jan. 1, every lab manager and pathologist has a chance to influence government officials about the need to forestall the scheduled implementation of the Medicare Part B clinical laboratory test fee cuts.
THE DARK REPORT recommends that all clinical laboratory scientists and managers, along with their hospital and health system administrators, take two actions. The first action is, before the Oct. 23 deadline, they should submit comments to CMS that point out the problems with how CMS collected private health insurer lab test price data and describe the negative consequences that will occur because of the deep fee cuts CMS proposed. Those negative consequences are the financial erosion labs will experience and the reduction in testing services and staffing that will result. Labs also should describe the ways that any probable cutbacks will deprive Medicare beneficiaries in your communities of access to high quality lab testing services.
The second action is to notify each senator and representative about why they need to intervene with CMS and suspend the fee cuts to allow time for CMS and the lab industry to work through the problems. To make this easier, you can share the same comments you submitted to CMS. It is important that letters to elected officials describe how labs could be forced to close, which would eliminate well-paid jobs in their districts, and the disruption in access Medicare beneficiaries will experience in their districts.
As you submit comments and letters, you will have influential allies in this effort. Be sure to mention that major healthcare associations, including the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, are collaborating to fix the problems with the proposed lab fee schedule.