CMS again delays signature requirement for lab tests

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services delayed on Friday implementation of a policy requiring signatures of physicians or other clinicians to approve requisitions for clinical diagnostic laboratory tests. The policy, scheduled to go into affect on April 1, will not be enforced this year – the second time since December the agency has delayed its implementation.

Following input from the laboratory community, CMS said it decided to focus its resources instead this year on changing the regulation that requires signatures on the lab requisitions over "concerns that physicians, non-physician practitioners, and clinical diagnostic laboratories are having difficulty complying with this policy," the agency said.

The American Hospital Association said it was told by CMS that it planned to issue a proposed rule rescinding the policy, which was included in the 2011 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule. The AHA, the American Medical Association, and others had called for CMS to reconsider the requirement because they said it was burdensome to providers and a threat to patient care.

The agency had sent an interim final rule to rescind the signature requirement to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review on March 21. However, administration lawyers said the interim rule could not go forward and that CMS must go through the proper federal rulemaking process, American Medical News reported.

The official rescission of the requirement most likely will appear in the proposed Medicare physician fee schedule expected this summer, said JoAnne Glisson, senior vice president of the American Clinical Laboratory Assn. in Washington, reported American Medical News.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of House and Senate legislators have been urging CMS Administrator Don Berwick, MD, to at least delay enforcing the requirement until 2012.

For more information:

- read the AM News article
- see the House and Senate letters

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