Legislation would expand access and coverage of allergy testing; improve outcomes for seniors and children in rural populations
Jul 31 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies – introduced the Allergy Testing Access Act of 2019, legislation that would expand access to allergy testing and ensure the proper diagnoses of allergies for patients, including the elderly, young children and individuals in rural communities.
“Too many Americans are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to how we diagnose and treat dangerous allergies,” said Sen. Moran. “Regardless of your age or where you live, folks ought to have equal access to allergy testing to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment – and to avoid a potentially life-threating situation. This legislation creates fairness in the coverage and accessibility of these tests, and I urge my colleagues to pass this sensible measure.”
“The National Medical Association offers our strong support for this legislation that would remove Medicare and Medicaid coverage barriers that prevent many individuals from having coverage and access to safe and accurate allergy blood testing, and would improve health outcomes for Americans suffering from asthma and other serious and life-threatening allergic diseases,” said Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Subsection of the National Medical Association Chairperson Michael A. Lenoir, MD.
Allergic diseases are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, with more than 50 million Americans living with allergy symptoms, carrying an associated cost of over $18 billion per year.
Inconsistencies remain in Medicare and Medicaid coverage of allergy testing that both reduce access and increase overall costs. Peer-reviewed literature from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established the accuracy of both blood tests (in vitro specific IgE) and skin tests (percutaneous) as confirmatory tests for allergies. Despite this, many local Medicare and Medicaid coverage policies deny equal coverage and access to blood-based allergy tests. Currently, access is limited to areas in which a local coverage determination has been made by the Medicare Administrative Contractor to expand access to blood testing. Areas where equal coverage has been introduced have witnessed a reduction in overall costs per beneficiary without disruption of services, while retaining similar skin to blood test usage ratios.
Inequities in access to allergy tests which are safe and accurate only serve to proliferate negative health outcomes and alienate populations in rural settings that may not have access to a specialist. There is an unnecessary financial burden associated with healthcare disparities resultant from a lack of equal access to allergy testing coverage.
The Allergy Testing Access Act of 2019 addresses these inequalities by expanding access and ensuring proper diagnosis of allergies for patients – including the elderly and young children – in rural communities. This legislation will remove barriers which inhibit patient access to safe and accurate allergy tests, thereby empowering patients with personal healthcare information that can help them live healthy, productive lives.
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