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DelBene, Sherrill, and Sewell Introduce Legislation to Incentivize Faster COVID-19 Test Results

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Washington, D.C., October 1, 2020 | comments

Today, Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), and Terri Sewell (AL-07) introduced the Strictly Pay for Efficient and Expedited Delivery of Your (SPEEDY) COVID-19 Tests Act, legislation that encourages diagnostic laboratories to maximize testing volume and turnaround COVID-19 test results faster. Delivering results faster improves the diagnostic value of the result and can mitigate the spread of the virus by informing individuals sooner allowing then to institute proper isolation measures.

Currently, labs that process COVID-19 tests are paid a flat rate by Medicare regardless of how quickly the result is delivered. This legislation incentivizes commercial testing labs to provide timely results to patients. Specifically, the legislation will:

  • Adjust the reimbursement rates that labs receive through Medicare depending on how quickly labs deliver test results. By providing results within 24 hours, labs will receive a 25 percent add-on to the Medicare reimbursement rate. Labs will receive the current Medicare reimbursement rate if results are provided within 48 hours. Labs will receive the reimbursement level that was used at the start of COVID-19 outbreak if results are provided within 72 hours. Labs will receive no reimbursement for results provided after 72 hours.
  • Establish safeguards that prevent testing manipulation. The labs will be required to process any tests they receive within 28 days. If a lab fails to do so, they will forfeit their ability to participate in Medicare.
  • Considers the challenges of rural communities by providing an additional 36-hour extension for labs supporting medically underserved areas.

“Expanding COVID-19 testing capacity is only helpful if we can get results back quickly. Every day someone is forced to wait, the outcome loses its clinical value,” said DelBene. “This bill will incentivize faster results rather than backlogging tests for days, which will allow people to know their status and provide public health officials a better understanding of the virus in their communities. The federal government shouldn’t be paying for what is essentially useless information when our country is in such a crisis. Our frontline workers like nurses, grocery workers, teachers, flight attendants, and restaurant staff would all be made safer by faster test results.”

“There is no good reason for concerned citizens to wait an extended period of time for a COVID-19 test result when some people get results back in 24 hours,” said Sherrill. “Our public and economic health demand quicker COVID results so individuals can know their status and treat their symptoms differently, return to work if they are not sick, or increase their vigilance if a positive test results requires quarantine.”

“As this public health crisis continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of those across this country, efficiency in the way Americans are tested for COVID-19 is sorely needed,” said Sewell. “Streamlining the testing process will not only allow my constituents to receive their results faster, but it will also ensure that if they are infected, they can take the necessary precautions to help contain the spread of the disease before it’s too late.”

Public health experts agree that faster test results are essential to both slowing the spread of COVID-19 and getting the economy back on track.

The full bill text is available here.

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