In This Issue...

  • AHRQ Seeks Input on AACC-Initiated BNP Study
  • Tax Deal Reached, Sequester Postponed

  • AHRQ Seeks Input on AACC-Initiated BNP Study

    The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is seeking public comment on a draft study, "Use of Natriuretic Peptide Measurement in the Management of Heart Failure," proposed by AACC. The initial findings indicate that "BNP and NT-proBNP had good diagnostic performance for ruling out, but were less accurate for ruling in Heart Failure (HF), BNP and NT-proBNP had prognostic value in HF and the general population. Therapeutic value was inconclusive." To read the entire draft report, or to provide comments, please visit the AHRQ website.

    Tax Deal Reached, Sequester Postponed

    The House and Senate reached a deal that addresses one-half of the fiscal cliff—the anticipated tax hikes.  The two chambers agreed to make most of the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples making less than $450,000 annually.  The bill also included a one-year ‘doc  fix,’ preventing a 27 percent cut in physician payments from taking effect.  No lab cuts appear to have been included in the bill. 

    The legislation postponed the other half of the fiscal cliff—the budget cuts—until March 1st.  Congress has until then to identify cost savings to eliminate the across-the-board cuts.  If Congress does not reach an agreement, clinical laboratories and other health care providers will likely take a two percent cut in reimbursement.  If the House and Senate do reach an agreement, clinical laboratories are also likely to be subject to payment reductions.  Among the items that could be under consideration include:

    • the establishment of a laboratory co-payment;
    • the adoption of competitive bidding for laboratory services;
    • a reduction in the fee schedule; or
    • an extension of the 1.75 percent cut in the annual CPI update that is due to expire in 2015.
    Future events that may also trigger discussions regarding the deficit include:
    • the debt ceiling – the US recently reached its borrowing limit.  Congress has roughly two months to raise the limit or the US defaults on its financial obligations; and
    • funding for fiscal year 2013 – Congress never passed a budget last year.  The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires March 27th.

    Each of these dates may result in further discussions over the federal debt. It appears that much of 2013 will be focused on this issue. GAU will continue to report on future developments in this area.