The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in March will fund efforts to harmonize laboratory tests, the culmination of more than a decade of AACC advocacy efforts. AACC worked closely with Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and other lawmakers, as well as a partnership of 17 clinical associations. The bill provides $2 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency plans to use the new funding for materials and monitoring that will enable harmonization of tests for free testosterone, thyroid stimulating hormone, and estrogen.
The goal of harmonization is to achieve uniform test results across different laboratories and instruments and ensure the best treatment decisions possible for patients. While some laboratory tests can be standardized by making sure they align with a gold standard reference method, for most laboratory tests no such standard exists. This means testing can differ among labs, leading to fragmented patient health records, misinterpreted results, and a moving target for clinical practice guidelines. Harmonization fills the gap by creating an agreed-upon benchmark that all labs can use for such tests, making results consistent. AACC plans to continue working with legislators and other stakeholders to make this an annual appropriation and will also give input to CDC on the tests most in need of harmonization.
In addition to harmonization, the bill also ensures critical funding for other scientific programs, such as a $3 billion boost for the National Institutes of Health, the largest increase in 15 years. This includes a $60 million increase for the All of Us precision medicine initiative that plans to compile genomic and other data on 1 million subjects.
Congress must return to the budget debate this fall, as the government’s 2018 fiscal year ends on September 30. By March 2019, Congress will have to deal once again with the debt limit that was suspended in February.