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Clinical Laboratory Updates in 2023 Physician Fee Schedule

On November 2, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published its Final Rule implementing changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for CY 2023. Included within this Final Rule are important changes for clinical laboratories that will take effect on January 1, 2023.

There are two notable changes affecting clinical labs included in the Final Rule. First, CMS is implementing congressionally mandated changes to the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA) reporting regulations, which updates reporting timelines and limits the phase-in of laboratory test payment reductions. Laboratories should take steps to have their 2019 data accessible and prepare to report before the March 31, 2023 deadline. Second, CMS is issuing regulations to both codify and modify policies on billing Medicare for specimen collection fees and travel allowances. The changes also increase specimen collection payment rates that had previously remained unchanged for years. Specifically, as it relates to specimen collection, the changes may affect codes 36415, G0471, P9612, and P9615, but do not appear to relate to codes G2023 and G2024. As the regulations relate to travel allowances, the changes may affect codes P9603 and P9604.

Following the implementation of PAMA in 2014, Medicare has set the clinical laboratory fee schedule (CLFS) rates based on data reported by applicable laboratories on the payment rates they receive from commercial payors. The initial reporting period occurred in early 2017 based on data from 2016. However, the second reporting period was delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, which was intended for early 2020. Thus, CMS is revising the definitions of “data collection period” and “data reporting period” to specify that for the data reporting period of January 1, 2023 through March 31, 2023, the data collection period is January 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019. Moreover, CMS clarified that data reporting is required every three years beginning January 2023. As a result, CLFS payment rates for CY 2024 through CY 2026 will be based on data collected in the first half of 2019 and reported in early 2023.

As part of the Final Rule, CMS is promulgating a new regulation at 42 C.F.R. § 414.523, which covers new specimen collection fees and travel allowances. Historically, portions of these policies existed primarily in the Medicare Claims Processing Manual, but the guidance was unclear and inconsistent in certain places. In issuing the new regulation, CMS aims to clarify and modify its existing policies to account for current healthcare practices and simplify the rules with respect to claims for travel allowances. Providers should take note of the eligibility requirements for billing for specimen collection, for which CMS specifically reiterates is only covered in certain circumstances. Lastly, providers should also be aware of the updated Medicare CLFS travel allowance policies, specifically as far as who is transporting specimens, the distance traveled, and the number of locations.

For over 35 years, Wachler & Associates has represented healthcare providers and suppliers nationwide in a variety of health law matters, and our attorneys can assist providers and suppliers in understanding new developments in healthcare law and regulation. If you or your healthcare entity has any questions pertaining to clinical laboratory compliance or healthcare compliance, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or

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