College of American Pathologists Applauds
Congressional Action to Raise Pap Test Payment
Increase under Medicare would help ensure
continued access to lifesaving test in local communities.
Contact: Maureen Jones
WASHINGTON--The College of American Pathologists (CAP) applauds decisions yesterday in the House and Senate to improve Medicare payment for Pap tests and ensure women's continued access to this lifesaving screening service, especially in local communities.
"The College of American Pathologists has been deeply concerned about declining access to Pap tests-particularly in local communities," CAP President Paul Bachner, MD, said. "Yesterday's actions in the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees will do much to reverse that trend, and we commend lawmakers for recognizing the value of this service."
The Ways and Means Committee, as part if its deliberations on legislation to restore about $15 billion in Medicare spending cut by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, agreed to legislative language offered by Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., to increase Medicare Pap test payment to at least $14.60. Medicare now pays, at most, $7.15 for the test--less than half the test's average cost.
In the Senate, Finance Committee Chair William V. Roth Jr., R-Del., included a Pap test payment increase in his "Balanced Budget Adjustment Act of 1999," which the committee approved yesterday. The legislation would increase Pap test payment to a minimum of $14.60 for two years while the Secretary of Health and Human Services studies the issue.
The CAP says inadequate federal payment for the test has prompted its migration from local laboratories to large regional labs that, through sheer volume, can perform the test more economically. The reduced availability of Pap testing at the local level carries potentially serious consequences for health care, including a loss of contact between a patient's attending physician and the pathologist familiar with the patient's medical history. Because of the same concerns for quality care, the College also believes legislation is needed to guarantee a physician's right to refer to out-of-network pathologists.
"We urge Congress and the administration to finish the work started in the House and Senate committees and approve legislation guaranteeing a minimum Medicare payment for Pap tests of at least $14.60," Dr. Bachner said. "America's women deserve nothing less."
The Pap test is widely regarded as the most successful cancer screening service of this century and has reduced the U.S. death rate from cervical cancer by more than 70 percent since its introduction shortly after World War II.
The CAP has been spearheading a multiyear public education campaign to encourage and motivate women to get Pap tests annually and to promote the benefits of this lifesaving screening test in the fight against cancer.
One of its more recent and successful activities has been the establishment of a World Wide Web site, www.papsmear.org, through which women can register to receive annual e-mail reminders to schedule their Pap tests.
The CAP is a medical society serving nearly 16,000 physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is the world's largest association composed exclusively of pathologists and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. The CAP is an advocate for high quality and cost-effective patient
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