CMS boosts Medicare payments for high-throughput COVID-19 diagnostic tests

The Trump administration will nearly double payments for high-throughput technology that can rapidly test and diagnose COVID-19 cases.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS') action announced Wednesday comes as experts call for a major increase in testing in order to reopen the economy.

The agency said Medicare will pay a higher payment of $100 for COVID-19’s clinical diagnostic lab tests that use “high-throughput technologies developed by the private sector that allow for increased testing capacity, faster results and more effective means of combating the spread of the virus.”

The lab tests can process more than 200 specimens a day. The boosted payments will be effective through the public health emergency.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma said the boosted payments will be an “absolute game-changer for nursing homes, where risk of coronavirus infection is high among our most vulnerable.”

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She said the decision builds on other moves the agency has made to expand testing, including enabling Medicare to pay any new specimen collection fees for testing of homebound and non-hospital inpatients.

The announcement comes as some experts have called for a rapid expansion of testing in order to reopen the economy.

A report released by the American Enterprise Institute and co-authored by former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said testing capacity needs to be at least 750,000 tests per week.

“We need to invest in new tools to make it efficient for providers to communicate test results and make data easily accessible to public-health officials working to contain future outbreaks,” the report said.