Read the Advocacy Update
February 23, 2021
In this Issue:
- CAP Rallies Support for Additional $10 Billion to Expand Medical Supply Production
- CAP Advocacy Win: Biden Administration Increases COVID-19 Testing Funds
- Transition: Biden Nominates Brooks-LaSure for CMS Administrator
- UnitedHealthcare Conveys Deadline Flexibility with Designated Provider Program
- Rhode Island Pathologists, CAP Oppose Genetic Counselors Interpreting Test Results
- Registration Open for the 2021 Pathologists Leadership Summit
- Last Week for February Advocacy News Quiz
CAP Rallies Support for Additional $10 Billion to Expand Medical Supply Production
As the House works on its version of a legislative package to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the CAP urged Senate leaders to support testing services and laboratory frontline providers as they craft their own pandemic relief bill. The CAP is asking senators to increase resources for testing, enhance existing relief programs, and offer additional financial assistance to pathologists and laboratories.
In a February 19 letter to Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the CAP reviewed the various challenges pathologists have confronted throughout the testing process during the pandemic. “The current pandemic has brought to the forefront the vital role of pathologists and the value that they bring to medicine. Pathologists are integrally involved in direct mitigation of the COVID-19 crisis, including testing for accurate and timely diagnosis, as well as work on potential cures,” wrote CAP President Patrick Godbey, MD, FCAP. “Now more than ever patients and their treating physicians are relying on the expertise of pathologists. Pathologists and the services they provide, including ensuring laboratory quality in communities across the United States, are at the foundation of our health care system. We cannot allow this foundation to erode any further.”
$10 Billion to Expand Supply Production
The CAP asked the Senate leaders to pass legislation to ensure timely and accurate COVID-19 testing to patients throughout the country. For example, smaller health systems have struggled to secure supplies, limiting the capacity for rapid testing for triage in emergency rooms, psychiatric programs, women who are in active labor. To mitigate supply shortages, the CAP supports an additional $10 billion investment in expanding domestic manufacturing for pandemic supplies, including those used throughout the testing process and any efforts to fully use the Defense Production Act.
The CAP also supported increasing funds for COVID-19 tests, emphasizing that funds should be used for a broad range of tests, including SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid tests, delivered in various communities and settings. The CAP also supported replenishing the Provider Relief Fund with $35 billion (setting aside 20% of the funds for rural hospitals) and investing $30 billion in the Disaster Relief Fund, which would offer federal reimbursement for critical emergency response resources.
The CAP also requested that the government cover multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) respiratory viral panel (RVP) tests. Many respiratory pathogens present similarly in patients and it is difficult to differentiate between influenza, coronavirus, rhinoviruses, and many other pathogens without accurate testing. In addition, the CAP urged Congress to fund and expand hazard pay measures available for health care providers, including the full range of staff and professionals within pathology and laboratory medicine.
CAP Advocacy Win: Biden Administration Increases COVID-19 Testing Funds
The White House expanded resources for COVID-19 testing after calls by the CAP for assistance to address supply shortages. On February 17, the Biden Administration announced that the Department of the Health and Human Services (HHS) released $650 million in resources to expand testing, increase manufacturing of testing supplies, and support genomic sequencing. Previously, the CAP had engaged with the Biden administration on its COVID-19 pandemic strategy and encouraged the government to increase testing and supplies resources.
With the increased funding, which is separate from the COVID-19 relief package in Congress, the HHS will establish regional coordinating centers to organize the distribution of COVID-19 testing supplies. The HHS will also partner with laboratories across the country, including universities and commercial laboratories, to collect specimens, perform tests, and report results to the relevant public health agencies.
The HHS and the Department of Defense will invest $815 million to increase domestic manufacturing of testing supplies and raw materials, including filter pipette tips, nitrocellulose used in antigen point-of-care tests, and specific injected molded plastics needed to house testing reagents. The CAP welcomed the additional resources to improve the supply chain for testing as noted through surveys of laboratory directors in 2020 the continued lack of testing supplies has hindered COVID-19 diagnostic testing.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will invest nearly $200 million to identify, track, and mitigate emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2 through genome sequencing. Increasing samples will improve our ability to detect emerging variants and understand their spread with greater precision. Expanded testing is critical to support more genomic sequencing because sequencing only occurs after a positive COVID-19 test.
In a January 27 letter the CAP reviewed issues throughout the testing process, in addition to problems with obtaining testing supplies, continued access to services, and the financial implications of the pandemic on laboratories.
Transition: Biden Nominates Brooks-LaSure for CMS Administrator
Editor's Note: Advocacy Update will feature stories about the Biden Administration and the new Congress. These stories will highlight major news on President Joe Biden's cabinet, other administrative officials, and both chambers of Congress that will enact and execute new health care policies affecting pathologists, their laboratories, and the patients they serve.
On February 17, President Joe Biden nominated Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, a former appointee from the Obama administration, to be the next administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Previously, Ms. Brooks-LaSure was a deputy director who oversaw insurance marketplaces and regulations following the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Ms. Brooks-LaSure also previously worked with the current nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra, while serving as a staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee. She is currently a managing director at the consulting firm Manatt.
If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Brooks-LaSure would run that oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and various insurance market regulations.
UnitedHealthcare Conveys Deadline Flexibility with Designated Provider Program
The CAP met with UnitedHealthcare leaders on February 19 to discuss the insurers upcoming plan changes and the newly-announced Designated Diagnostic Provider laboratory program. While there is a February 28 deadline for laboratories to submit a quality questionnaire, UnitedHealthcare officials confirmed to the CAP that they would be flexible on that deadline and CAP members can contact firstname.lastname@example.org with concerns and questions.
UnitedHealthcare had announced the new program impacting outpatient laboratory services for fully insured commercial members. Effective July 1, 2021, the insurer will only cover outpatient laboratory services for members when delivered by a “Designated Diagnostic Provider” laboratory. Laboratories that are not a “Designated Diagnostic Provider” will remain in-network, but outpatient diagnostic laboratory services will be denied as non-covered. UnitedHealthcare sent communications to all diagnostic providers to encourage them to become a Designated Diagnostic Provider by completing a quality questionnaire by February 28.
The CAP has secured a follow-up meeting with UnitedHealthcare and will continue to engage with the insurer to ensure access to pathology and laboratory services across all settings. Visit the CAP’s private sector advocacy webpage for more information.
Rhode Island Pathologists, CAP Oppose Genetic Counselors Interpreting Test Results
The Rhode Island Society of Pathologists (RISP) and the CAP are working together to oppose a bill in the Rhode Island state house that would infringe upon pathologists’ scope of practice and allow genetic counselors the ability to interpret genetic tests. The RISP and CAP are committed to protecting pathologists’ scope of practice and ensuring laboratory personnel and genetic counselors' scope of practice are consistent with their education and training.
The interpretation of genetic test results is a practice of medicine that only pathologists and physicians can precisely do.
In an opposition testimony letter to the RI House and Senate, RISP President Corey Hanley, MD, FCAP, stated how the amended bill empowers genetic counselors to interpret genetic test results unlike any other state. “The interpretation of genetic test results is the practice of medicine,” stated Dr. Hanley. “Genetic counselors do not have this scope of practice authority to ‘interpret’ genetic tests in any other state.”
The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) also agreed with the RISP and the CAP’s amended language in the current RI state legislation.
Registration Open for the 2021 Pathologists Leadership Summit
Get Inspired. Have Influence. Make an Impact.
The 2021 Pathologists Leadership Summit, taking place virtually, May 1-4, is the meeting where CAP members will come together to set the path that moves our specialty forward.
This newly integrated meeting, open to all members, will strengthen your ability to communicate, persuade, manage, and lead by drawing upon content from the House of Delegates, the Engaged Leadership Academy, Practice Management, and our Federal Policy Agenda, shaping you into a better leader and advocate for pathology and the patients we serve.
The 2021 Pathologists Leadership Summit gives you exclusive access to education and training, in addition to brainstorming sessions with key CAP leaders that will inspire the leader within you. Make an impact by educating legislators on health care issues affecting pathology during our virtual day on the Hill.
This meeting gives you the tools you need to make things happen, so you can move from reacting to what happens, to driving positive change.
Last Week for the February Advocacy News Quiz
It’s the last week to test your advocacy knowledge with the February news quiz. So far over 60 CAP members have taken this month’s quiz. See how you compare against your fellow CAP members’ in the February News Quiz.