Lab's Non-Coverage Notice Deters Medicare Patients

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , June 12, 2012

The national blood testing lab Quest Diagnostics has been handing thousands of Southern California Medicare patients with diabetes a "non-coverage" notice that physicians say is provoking patients to reject their essential A1c tests, which federal officials say violates Medicare rules.

"This is a terribly ill-conceived administrative move that was done without consideration of the tremendously negative impact it is having on patient care," says Paul Speckart, MD, a San Diego endocrinologist. When patients in the practice he shares with four other doctors receive this form, "about one-third are canceling the test."

The form, called an "Advance Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage," or ABN, is a Medicare template intended to warn patients that Medicare imposes limits on coverage. The A1c test, which doctors typically order every 90 days, is covered only once every three months. If more frequent tests are ordered, the beneficiary needs to know his or her obligation to pay the bill, in this case $66 per test.

If providers do not give patients these ABN forms to sign and the claims are denied, the provider is not entitled to collect directly from the patient.

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2 comments on "Lab's Non-Coverage Notice Deters Medicare Patients"

cheryl clark (6/15/2012 at 2:38 PM)
Mark [INVALID] the ABN form being distributed lists all three reasons, side-by-side, in the boxes.

Mark Sires (6/13/2012 at 4:55 PM)
If Quest's ABN indicates all three reasons, then it is noncompliant. If it only indicates that Medicare doesn't pay as often as this (which is the REQUIRED verbage per CMS guidelines), then this story is wrong. This is what has to be done. There is no mechanism for Quest, or any other laboratory, to verify the last time a patient had the test done. Therefore they have to provide an ABN for every time limited test. Medicare patients are free to get their testing done at any laboratory, so they can't assume that the last time they performed the testing was the last time the test was performed on this patient. The REAL story is that CMS implemented these time limited tests with no mechanism for laboratories to verify coverage. This is a CMS problem, not a Quest problem. If CMS wants to fix this, then they need to change the rules so a laboratory only has to provide the ABN if the test was performed by their lab within the limited time. If CMS determines that the testing was performed at another lab within the limited time frame, then the lab should be free to bill the patient even though an ABN was not produced.




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