NEW YORK – The American Clinical Laboratory Association on Thursday requested support from Congress for a $5 billion surge capacity fund to support the clinical lab industry in providing testing for SARS-CoV-2.
The letter from ACLA President Julie Khani said the direct financial fund would ensure commercial labs have appropriate staffing, equipment, and resources to sustain testing capacity in the US and would be available for six months after the emergency. Khani noted that approximately 43,000 tests have been performed by ACLA members since the US Food and Drug Administration released guidance last month enabling high-complexity labs to develop their own SARS-CoV-2 tests and run them before receiving Emergency Use Authorization.
"We are growing increasingly concerned that the federal government is not recognizing the strain on the laboratory industry to meet the demand for testing for COVID-19," Khani said in the letter.
She proposed the funds would cover costs related to uncompensated SARS-CoV-2 testing services for uninsured and under-insured patients; support for lab employees, including paid sick leave and overtime pay; capital and supplies acquisition and government buyback after the crisis for testing platforms, reagents, personal protective equipment, and IT software related to remote work expansion; and support for R&D to expand testing capacity and alternative specimen collection.
The letter also emphasized that clinical labs shouldn't be forced to bear the cost of promised free testing for the virus for patients. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has set payment rates for SARS-CoV-2 testing, but Khani said rates haven't been set across all payors and the federal government hasn't addressed potential issues with "inadequate rates, prior authorization requirements, out-of-network issues, or instances where patient insurance information may not be collected."
ACLA's letter also advocated for laboratories to be included in any policies the federal government implements to protect the US economy, including payroll tax suspension and tax credits.