September 19, 2022 Intelligence: Late-Breaking Lab News

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Déjà vu? Lawmakers in Congress question whether public health officials have done enough to stay ahead of monkeypox, including the availability of diagnostic tests. Concerns about such testing came up during a Sept. 14 hearing before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “Access to testing was an early challenge in the monkeypox response, with many people reporting significant delays in both accessing the tests and learning the results,” said committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA). Back at the start of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, public health testing capabilities also were criticized.

MORE ON: Monkeypox 

At the committee hearing, Rochelle Walensky, MD, Director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that the U.S. has plenty of monkeypox testing capacity given current cases. “To date, we’ve used about 14% to 20% of our capacity,” Walensky said. Part of the delay with test access stemmed from patients requesting tests without yet having the telltale rash of a monkeypox infection, she added. Approved monkeypox tests require a swab of a rash lesion.

CANCER TEST SCAM: OWNER TO PAY FEDS $97 MILLION RESTITUTION

In the latest federal case of Medicare fraud and abuse, Daniel Hurt, 58, of Florida, agreed to pay $97 million in restitution and $31 million in criminal forfeiture to settle charges involving three schemes. Hurt will be sentenced in January and faces a maximum jail sentence of 10 years. One of Hurt’s schemes was the use of Ellwood City Medical Center in Pennsylvania as a pass-through vehicle for “genetic screenings for cancer risk.” In its coverage of this case Reuters wrote, “Hurt admitted that he and his co-conspirators obtained cheek swab samples from Medicare beneficiaries through mail marketing and purported ‘health fairs’ around the country and then obtained orders for testing via telemedicine from doctors who were not actually treating the beneficiaries and were not qualified to interpret the tests. The results of the tests were never used in treating patients.” This new trial outcome is the newest warning to executives and managers of clinical laboratories that the U.S. Department of Justice is more frequently filing criminal charges against owners and managers of healthcare organizations that commit Medicare fraud. 

TRANSITIONS

The Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) named Robyn Temple-Smolkin as Senior Director of Clinical and Scientific Affairs and Director of Guideline Development. She has been at AMP since 2014. Previously, she served at Capture Resources, Big Sky Diagnostic Labs, and Mountain West Pathology. 

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