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Congress Reintroduces SALSA, Taking up PAMA Reform Once Again

NEW YORK — Congress has reintroduced the Saving Access to Laboratory Services Act (SALSA), which would modify the 2014 Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA) by establishing new processes for reporting lab pricing data and new, lower caps on test price cuts and rises under PAMA.

SALSA, which failed to pass Congress last year, is a top priority for the lab industry, and its reintroduction this week by bipartisan groups of legislators in both the House and Senate was met with applause by organizations including the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) and the National Independent Laboratory Association (NILA).

The bill was introduced by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., along with Reps. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Scott Peters, D-Calif., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.

SALSA would institute a sampling-based approach to collecting lab testing pricing data that proponents say would both alleviate the administrative burden on labs and ensure that price data is collected from a more representative slice of the industry. Additionally, the bill would cap the amount a test's price could fall or rise under PAMA to 5 percent a year.

While lab companies and their industry representatives pushed for SALSA to pass Congress last year, it didn't make it into the end-of-year spending package. Instead, Congress included a provision in the end-of-year omnibus delaying both PAMA cuts and the scheduled price data reporting period for a year, making it the fourth year in a row it put off PAMA implementation.

"It’s time for a permanent legislative solution that preserves and sustains critical clinical laboratory services for seniors," ACLA President Susan Van Meter said in a statement. "With strong bipartisan and bicameral support of SALSA, Congress has the opportunity to fix the flawed PAMA framework and prevent reduced access to essential testing, stifled innovation, and weakened laboratory infrastructure essential to public health preparedness. Congress must pass SALSA now."

"SALSA will strengthen our nation’s clinical laboratory infrastructure, ensuring access to diagnostic testing for seniors and enabling our community and regional laboratories to better respond to emerging public health threats," Mark Birenbaum, executive director of NILA, said in a separate statement.