Reflecting on Healthy Aging Month and the Importance of Routine Laboratory Services in Informing Care￼
September marks Healthy Aging Month, a vital opportunity for patients, providers, and caregivers to reflect on the importance of accessible care for America’s seniors. It also serves as a reminder to seniors to prioritize their physical and mental health as they age.
The National Council on Aging reports that 80 percent of adults over the age of 65 have at least one chronic condition, and that more than two-thirds have multiple chronic conditions. Disease management can become more challenging in older age, which makes continued access to the laboratory services that inform routine care critical for seniors.
The diagnostic tests performed by our nation’s clinical laboratories each day are central to disease management. Results from laboratory tests guide many of life’s most important health care decisions, like whether a patient’s medication is working or if a new condition identified needs to be treated. Results from laboratory tests also help providers develop more personalized care plans that improve patient outcomes. It’s no wonder that results from laboratory tests inform 70 percent of clinical decision-making.
Unfortunately, a 2014 law has led to three years of compounding cuts to Medicare reimbursement, compromising seniors’ access to routine laboratory tests, including the top 25 most commonly ordered tests. These tests are used to help diagnose, monitor, and treat seniors with a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, prostate and colon cancers, and anemia, among others. The solution to this problem is simple: Congress must act now and pass the Saving Access to Laboratory Services Act (S. 4449/H.R. 8188), a bicameral, bipartisan bill that would ease these harmful cuts and help protect patients’ access to the tests they depend on.
The Saving Access to Laboratory Services Act offers a straightforward solution to achieving accurate and sustainable Medicare rates for laboratory services. If enacted, this legislation would simplify the current data reporting process by directing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to collect data for widely available laboratory tests via statistical sampling of all major types of laboratories that provide services to seniors, including independent, hospital, and physician office laboratories. The end result is a framework that helps support a strong clinical laboratory infrastructure and innovation in the next generation of diagnostic tests, while also protecting robust access to care for patients.
Without strong clinical laboratories, the nation’s response to COVID-19 would have been severely hampered. It’s imperative our nation’s clinical laboratories have the infrastructure to respond to emerging public health needs, as well as the standard screening and diagnostic tests we need to inform routine care.
This Healthy Aging Month, we urge patients, providers, and caregivers to call on Congress to pass the Saving Access to Laboratory Services Act. As we encourage seniors to take charge of their health, we must also encourage our legislators to protect their access to the vital laboratory services that inform their care. Learn more at StopLabCuts.org.