Medical laboratory leaders and pathologists must be fully aware of the coming legal and regulatory changes taking place starting January 1, 2018, or risk fines and decreased reimbursements

January 1, 2018, marks the start of new Medicare Part B price cuts for clinical laboratory  and anatomic pathology testing. But decreasing reimbursement rates is just one issue facing medical laboratory leaders. The other is the increasingly rigorous regulatory environment poised to ensnare labs and pathology groups unprepared to navigate the dark waters of government compliance.

Tougher payer audits, higher recovery demands, and enforcement policies that increase the personal liability of CLIA lab directors and lab executives, are reasons why attorney David W. Gee, JD, a Partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Seattle, argues that laboratories need to step up their focus on compliance and due diligence. He notes laboratories must guard against “death by 1,000 knives” in this new landscape.

Insufficient Focus on Compliance Brings Consequences to Clinical Laboratories and Their Management

“There are more and more people and agencies whose focus it is to regulate and watch the dollars and make sure there is integrity in the system,” noted Gee in an interview with Dark Daily. “That includes not only the formerly regular players—the OIG [Office of Inspector General, US Department of Health and Human Services] and DOJ [Department of Justice]—but you’ve got an increasing number of states with their own False Claims Acts. You’ve got state agencies looking at opportunities to clean up the system and to tag along with other investigations going on, as well as commercial payers who have become more active in pursuing litigation and other measures against practices they allege to be fraudulent.”

Faced with these emerging trends, Gee stresses that labs must:

1.     Recognize the increased personal liability facing lab directors, owners, and management, and take steps to mitigate risk of enforcement actions that not only expose executives to potential penalties but also jeopardize the financial health of lab organizations.

2.     Understand the importance of meaningful and sustained investment in compliance (including providing compliance officers with the resources to manage an increasingly complex job) and leverage OIG guidance to assess gaps and risks in compliance programs.

3.     Be aware of risks inherent in third-party marketing agreements, which can result in short-term spikes in order volume, but which also could reduce “lines of sight” to clients, making it even more difficult to adhere to compliance standards.

Gee believes the emphasis labs place on cost control and “running lean” often results in a lack of attention being paid to compliance. He argues today’s competitive environment increases the need for laboratory directors to ensure proper business practices are followed and “compliance fundamentals are not overlooked in the haste to compete for the business of referral sources.”

Healthcare attorney and Partner, David W. Gee, JD, of Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, in Seattle will be one of three featured speakers during a new Dark Daily webinar on the Medicare Part B price cuts, and the critical legal and compliance issues clinical laboratories and pathology groups face starting in 2018. (Photo copyright: Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP.)

CLIA-Lab Directors to Be Held Personally Liable for Compliance Failures

Because federal regulators are considering holding CLIA-lab directors personally liable for compliance failures, Gee suggests laboratory executives should be motivated to put effective compliance programs in place.

“The best reason I can give for insisting as a lab director that the company actually has a successful and effective compliance program is that these days they stand to lose,” he argues. “The ability to prove you are not complicit—and that you are not the driver of things that have gone wrong—comes down to having an effective and well-documented compliance program so you are on record. And so there’s evidence that, as an engaged lab leader, you tried to do the right thing.”

Educational Opportunities for Lab Leaders

To help medical laboratory and pathology group leaders prepare for the perils they face, and take proactive steps to navigate the tough lab regulations and legal issues that lay ahead, click here to register for Dark Daily’s upcoming webinar “Tougher Lab Regulations and New Legal Issues in 2018: More Frequent Payer Audits, Problems with Contract Sales Reps, Increased Liability for CLIA Lab Directors, Proficiency Testing Violations, and More,” (or place this link into your browser: https://ddaily.wpengine.com/product/tougher-lab-regulations-and-new-legal-issues-in-2018-more-frequent-payer-audits-problems-with-contract-sales-reps-increased-liability-for-clia-lab-directors-proficiency-testing-violations-and).

This crucial learning event takes place on Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at 1 p.m. EST. Gee will be joined by Jeffrey J. Sherrin, President and Partner, O’Connell and Aronowitz in Albany, New York, and Richard Cooper, Chair, National Healthcare Practice Group, McDonald Hopkins, LLC, in Cleveland.

These three attorneys are among the nation’s foremost experts in issues unique to clinical laboratories, pathology groups, hospital labs, toxicology/pharmacogenomics labs, and molecular/genetic testing labs. Following our speakers’ presentations, there will be a question and answer period, during which you can submit your own specific questions to our experts.

You can’t afford to miss this opportunity. Click here to get up to speed on the most serious regulatory, compliance, and managed care contracting issues confronting all labs today. This webinar will provide solutions to the perils facing labs now and in 2018 by helping you map a proactive and effective course of action for your clinical lab or pathology group.

—Andrea Downing Peck

Related Information:

Tougher Lab Regulations and New Legal Issues in 2018: More Frequent Payer Audits, Problems with Contract Sales Reps, Increased Liability for CLIA Lab Directors, Proficiency Testing Violations, and More

What Every Lab Needs to Know about the Medicare Part B Clinical Laboratory Price Cuts That Take Effect in Just 157 Days, on Jan. 1, 2018

Nation’s Most Vulnerable Clinical Laboratories Fear Financial Failure If Medicare Officials Cut Part B Lab Fees Using PAMA Market Price Data Final Rule