August 9, 2000
Abercrombie receives award for women's health achievement and increasing air ambulance reimbursement rates
Congressman Neil Abercrombie will receive a Special Recognition Award at a reception tonight at the Willow’s Restaurant. for his role in passing women’s health legislation.
The event will also recognize his role in securing and increase in federal reimbursement rates for air ambulance
The reception is being sponsored by the Hawaii Society of Pathologists, the Clinical Laboratory Management Association, and Hawaii Air Ambulance.
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.
Abercrombie is assisting Hawaii Air Ambulance in securing consideration of the company’s needs in a negotiated rule-making process to raise Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates for air ambulance services.
Hawaii Air Ambulance is the only firm providing fixed wing ambulance service in Hawaii.
"Neil’s assistance has been instrumental in helping to solidify a secure base for Hawaii Air Ambulance," said Andy Kluger, the company’s president. "Upon purchasing the company, we were in a fragile financial situation. Neil’s intervention in Washington helped increase the reimbursement levels for Medicare and Medicaid transports."
Abercrombie said, "I’m extremely pleased we were able to have the actual costs of doing air ambulance business in Hawaii taken into account. In an island state, this service is a vital necessity. Continuing air ambulance service means that more people will receive the care they need."