In This Issue...

President Seeks New Cuts in Lab Payments

President Barak Obama recently released his fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget, which outlines the Administration’s spending priorities for next year.  Nearly $1 trillion of the $5 trillion budget is allocated for health care, such as funding for Medicare, Medicaid, and the implementation of health care reform.  Two health agencies, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, received modest increases, while the budgets for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality were cut. 

The Administration’s proposal also included $400 billion in cost savings, including a cut in laboratory payments.  The President is proposing to extend a provision of the Affordable Care Act that cuts the laboratory consumer price index by 1.75 percent annually.  The provision was due to expire in 2015. The Administration is seeking to extend this cut through 2023, reducing lab payments by nearly $8 billion over ten years. 

Although the President’s proposal is unlikely to garner much congressional support, some recommendations could be included in House and Senate budget bills.  AACC continues to oppose additional cuts in laboratory reimbursement.   The Association urges you to write your Members of Congress opposing this proposal.  GAU will keep you abreast of further developments.

House Panel Backs AACC-endorsed Newborn Screening Measure

On February 27th, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved H.R.1281, the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, which would preserve recent advances in state newborn screening programs. Since the enactment of earlier legislation, the number of states testing for 29 of the 31 treatable core conditions has increased four-fold.  In addition to expanding access to newborn screening, H.R.1281 would assist state screening programs to better assess and coordinate newborn treatments and continue research towards identifying treatments for conditions that can be detected through early testing.  Similar legislation has passed the Senate. AACC is a strong supporter of this important legislation.

AHRQ Seeks Comments on AACC-initiated Study

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is seeking public comments on an AACC-initiated draft systematic review, “Comparative Effectiveness of Calcineurin Inhibitor Monitoring and Treatment for Renal Transplantation.” Among the questions the study is seeking information on is how mass spectrometry compares with immunoassay for monitoring cyclosporine and tacrolimus in renal transplant patients.  The agency is seeking comments on this and other questions through March 26th.

CMS Proposes Coverage for Hepatitis C Screening for High Risk Individuals

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is seeking public input on its proposed decision to cover screening for the Hepatitis C Virus.  According to the Agency, “the evidence is adequate to conclude that screening for Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), is reasonable and necessary for the prevention or early detection of an illness or disability and is appropriate for individuals entitled to benefits under Part A or enrolled under Part B.” 

“Therefore, CMS proposes to cover screening for HCV with the appropriate U.S. Food and Administration (FDA) approved/cleared laboratory tests, used consistent with FDA approved labeling and in compliance with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) regulations….for individuals at high risk for Hepatitis C Virus infection” or for adults born between 1945 through 1965.

The CMS proposed decision is consistent with a 2013 recommendation made by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.  CMS is accepting comments through April 3, 2014.