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Congress Passes LAB Act

NEW YORK – Congress on Thursday passed the Laboratory Access for Beneficiaries (LAB) Act as part of an end-of-year spending package.

The bill, which will delay by one year the reporting of lab payment data required by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA), will now be passed on to the President, who is expected to sign it into law.

The LAB Act has been a priority for industry groups like American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA), which hope delaying payment data reporting will give hospital labs additional time to collect payment data and thereby increase their participation in the process, which the industry believes could boost payment rates under PAMA.

"Fortunately, Congress’ decisive action today puts us on the path to enact meaningful PAMA reforms that will protect seniors’ access to essential lab services, as the law originally intended," American Clinical Laboratory Association President Julie Khani said in a statement on Thursday.

The most recent payment data collection period ran from January 1, 2019 to June 30, 2019. Laboratories are slated to report the next round of data between January 1 and March 31, 2020, and rates based on that data are to be implemented January 1, 2021.

The LAB Act will delay that process by a year while potentially devising new payment data reporting requirements.

However, while the readiness of hospital and other labs to report pricing data is an issue, so is their willingness. The American Hospital Association has opposed CMS' move to require hospital labs to collect and report private payor data under PAMA, and many hospitals appear to feel that the burden of reporting this data outweighs whatever boost in pricing reporting might provide.

The refusal of many hospital labs to participate could limit the LAB Act's effectiveness. However, the delays enacted by the law would give the industry time to pursue other efforts to blunt PAMA's impact, most notably ACLA's ongoing lawsuit against the US Department of Health and Human Services challenging the rate-setting process.