As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to recede, efforts by commercial insurance carriers to claw back millions of dollars paid out for COVID-19 testing services are steadily increasing, creating an ongoing audit risk for healthcare providers, especially clinical labs. In many cases, efforts to get people tested, slow the pandemic, and ask questions later have turned into accusations of over-billing and demands that providers repay the insurance carriers.
Early in the pandemic, Congress required commercial insurers to cover certain claims for COVID-19 testing. However, Congress did not provide the insurers with funds to cover the cost of this mandate and some insurers have pushed back against lab claims for COVID-19 testing. As public opinion and political fervor over the urgency of testing has subsided, commercial insurers are taking advantage of the opportunity to audit COVID-19 testing claims, dispute payments they have made to the labs, and demand that labs make repayment, often for significant portions of the lab’s COVID-19 testing volume. These disputes generally focus on the same issues.
First, insurers may audit labs based on the requirement for an “individualized clinical assessment,” including whether the practitioner was authorized, whether the order for testing was within the scope of state law, whether the assessment was conducted by telemedicine or by a questionnaire, whether the ordering provider used a standing order, and what rules apply where a state does not or did not require an order for COVID-19 testing.