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July 6, 2000


Abercrombie receives award for women's health effort

Congressman Neil Abercrombie received a Special Recognition Award for his role in passing women’s health legislation from the Clinical Laboratory Management Association on June 25 at the group’s annual convention in Anaheim, California.

Abercrombie introduced the Investment in Women’s Health Act of 1999 (H.R. 976), which increases the Medicare reimbursement rate for Pap smear lab work from $7.15 to $$14.60.

The $14.60 reimbursement figure was approved with its inclusion in the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2000 (H.R. 31 94), which passed Congress in November 1999.

The cost to Hawaii labs for performing Pap smear tests ranges from $13.08 to $15.60.

Because of the large difference between the reimbursement and the actual cost, Hawaii labs faced the threat of being forced to discontinue Pap smear work unless the rate was raised.

Women across the nation confronted a similar predicament, because lab costs in other parts of the country also exceed the $7.15 Medicare reimbursement rate.

The issue extends beyond Medicare beneficiaries, because many private insurers use the Medicare rate as a benchmark in setting their own reimbursement rates.

Abercrombie said, "I’m very grateful for this recognition from the Clinical Laboratories Management Association. We can’t allow economic pressures to dictate our commitment to the early detection of cancer symptoms. A reimbursement rate in line with actual costs protects the lives of women and reflects a grasp of the economic realities of medical lab work."

Dr. James Navin, a pathologist with Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii, first brought the reimbursement disparity to Abercrombie’s attention in 1998.

Navin praised Abercrombie’s commitment to increased funding, saying: "Mr. Abercrombie’s persistence in the Pap smear issue will impact many future generations. Needless suffering and death will be halted. It once again shows– Neil cares."

Abercrombie’s bill had bipartisan support, with Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA) signing on as the lead Republican cosponsor.

The measure was supported by the American Medical Association, the College of American Pathologists, the American Medical Women’s Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, and the American Society of Clinical Pathologists.

Pap smears helped account for a 70 percent decline in cervical cancer death rates over the past 50 years.