Medical laboratory leaders urged to scrutinize pricing policies, billing decisions, and structural relationships that could trigger commercial payer and regulatory action

Clinical laboratories and pathology groups face another blow to their financial health on January 1, 2018, when new Medicare Part B price cuts take effect. Faced with increasing competition and declining reimbursement rates for anatomic pathology testing, medical laboratories will begin 2018 with their profitability under threat. In addition, healthcare legal experts warn many medical laboratory leaders risk further financial hardships by establishing “problematic” business relationships or developing pricing plans that put their labs at “unreasonable risk” with commercial payers and government regulators.

Financial Pressures Lead Clinical Laboratories to Risky Deals and Policies

One such expert is, attorney Jeffrey J. Sherrin, President and Partner at O’Connell and Aronowitz in Albany, New York. He contends that financial pressures are the impetus for many laboratories’ questionable deal-making and pricing policies.

“We’re increasingly dealing with proposed structures that clinical labs are entering into or considering entering into to remain viable, but without properly assessing how those relationships may run afoul of federal or state law or provider agreements,” Sherrin noted in an interview with Dark Daily. “If that doesn’t keep the labs up at night, it keeps us up at night!”

Tougher Auditing and Billing Scrutiny

While the “overwhelming majority of lab directors, owners, and managers are honest and law abiding,” Sherrin maintains they are “stepping into a minefield” by failing to properly vet decisions regarding:

1.     Lab billing and referral arrangements that could violate federal and state anti-kickback or fee-splitting laws, or trigger violations of provider agreements with health insurers.

2.     Participation in healthcare Management Service Organizations (MSOs) that involve “billing schemes” rather than legitimate administrative services, marketing, or data-collection activities.

3.     Pricing plans and billing policies that could trigger increased scrutiny by government and commercial payers over balance-billing of patients, and waiver or partial waiver of co-pays and deductibles.

In an era of shrinking reimbursements and limited access to healthcare networks, Sherrin urges medical laboratory leaders to be aware of another new reality: tougher audits from commercial payers whose investigators “perceive that there is rampant fraud in the industry” that extends beyond toxicology/pharmacogenomics or molecular/genetic testing laboratories.

“In payers’ minds, it’s across the board,” Sherrin says. “When they see patterns of limiting or capping or waiving of patient responsibility, their normal inclination is to assume this is part and parcel of some fraudulent scheme or practice, as opposed to a proper business decision.”

Proactive Steps to Improve Medical Lab Leader Decision-Making

Seeking guidance from a healthcare attorney before establishing new business relationships, and pricing or billing policies, is one way to increase your laboratory’s odds of surviving payer action.

“Most labs adopt a pricing policy without fully vetting whether they are doing it the right way, the best way, or the way that creates as little risk as possible,” Sherrin notes. “A high percentage of labs have not approached this issue with a degree of scrutiny as to whether the marketing of their test menu, their prices, and how they bill puts them in a better or worse position. Most are making business decisions based on what they need to do competitively without having the ramifications and implications analyzed.”

To help medical laboratory and pathology group leaders prepare for the perils they face, 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,” will reveal how lab leaders can take proactive steps to navigate the tough lab regulations and legal issues that lay ahead.

To attend this critical educational opportunity, click here to register (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).

Healthcare attorney Jeffrey W. Sherrin, President and Partner, O’Connell and Aronowitz, will be one of three featured speakers during a new Dark Daily webinar on the upcoming Medicare Part B price cuts, and the critical legal and compliance issues facing clinical laboratories and pathology groups in 2018. (Photo copyright: O’Connell and Aronowitz.)

This crucial learning event takes place on Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at 1 p.m. EST.  Sherrin will be joined by David W. Gee, JD, Partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Seattle, Wash., and Richard Cooper, JD, Chair of the 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 clinical laboratories 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