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Seniors: Get Your Checkbooks Ready

Senate Finance Committee Urged Not to Include Medicare Laboratory Co-pay in Health Care Bill

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- America's local and regional independent clinical laboratories are urging the Senate Finance Committee to reject a provision imposing a 20% co-pay on laboratory services under Medicare. Instead of providing "cost savings" to the American health care system, this provision would shift billions of dollars in costs to senior citizens who rely on these critical services.

"This provision does nothing but shift $24 billion in costs of laboratory tests away from the government and onto the backs of senior citizens on fixed-incomes," said Dr. Mark Birenbaum, Administrator for the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB) and the National Independent Laboratory Association (NILA). "It also undermines a key tenet of health care reform - cutting costs to the overall health care system. These lab results inform up to 70% of all medical decision-making and it is critical that health care reform preserve the ability for seniors to get these tests."

Not only will seniors be burdened with paying for these tests, the administrative burden on the health care system is staggering. If passed, this co-pay will result in over a quarter of a million bills to be mailed every single day.

"Lab services are critical to the quality of health care our seniors receive, yet the co-pay will force them to pay higher costs and create a nightmare for labs at the same time," said Dr. Birenbaum. "Simply put, the paper blizzard that would result from this provision will end up costing the labs more money to collect these payments than the cost of the co-pay itself. The small laboratories that specialize in serving seniors in rural areas, nursing homes and home health settings will be the hardest hit. Many of them will be forced out of business, and worst of all, with no one to replace their services to these most vulnerable citizens."

Congress has previously rejected this idea both because it does not result in a change in utilization and because of the huge costs to collect these co-pays. The laboratory industry has already offered other meaningful savings that will contribute to slowing the growth of health care costs.

AAB is dedicated to serving the community clinical laboratory and the professionals involved in clinical laboratory operations. Founded in 1956, AAB members are clinical laboratory directors, owners, managers, supervisors, technologists, technicians, and phlebotomists. NILA focuses on business/management issues facing laboratories, such as marketing/sales, contracting with managed care companies, finding and keeping good employees, financial management, expanding test menus, managing growth, competing with big, publicly traded laboratories, and acting on legislative and regulatory issues facing the laboratory industry.

    Mike Tetuan

SOURCE American Association of Bioanalysts; National Independent Laboratory Association
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