New legislation may have a positive impact on clinical laboratories’ ability to increase COVID-19 testing capabilities.
On May 27, 2020, two new pieces of legislation were introduced in the US House of Representatives that may have a significant financial impact for clinical laboratories, if passed. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN) introduced these bills to improve access to COVID-19 testing and to increase laboratories’ testing capacities.
About HR 7025: Would Boost Public Health Labs
The Diagnostic Testing for Public Health Labs Act of 2020, HR 7025 is the first of these two bills. HR 7025 intends to help clinical laboratories in responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing grants covering the cost of acquiring high-throughput diagnostic equipment needed to accommodate testing volumes.
In introducing two new bills to aid public health laboratories, hospitals, primary care facilities, physicians, and other healthcare providers in their COVID-19 testing response, US Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) (pictured) said that 46% of public health laboratories are without even a single high-throughput testing platform on site. (Photo source: https://bucshon.house.gov/biography/)
According to Bucshon’s office, HR 7025 would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to award grants to help regional, state, or local public health laboratories in the purchase of these machines as well as the necessary supplies to ramp up testing.
“Public health labs play a substantial and critical role in identifying and managing large-scale public health threats,” Bucshon said in a public statement. “However, their ability is severely limited by a lack of high-throughput, automated testing platforms.”
HR 7025 would set aside $250 million. As the bill currently stands, grants would be capped at $2 million, and this financial support would only be available to public health laboratories.
About HR 7026: Spotlights Rapid Testing for Communities
The second of these two bills is the Rapid Testing for Communities Act of 2020, HR 7026. This bill is intended to provide grants for acquiring equipment and supplies that are capable of performing same-day clinical laboratory diagnostic testing in a point-of-care setting.
HR 7026 seeks to set aside $500 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to award to hospitals, primary care facilities, physicians, and other providers to purchase rapid diagnostic testing equipment. The funding could be used to obtain equipment needed to process COVID-19 tests. The grant limit will be capped at $20,000 as the bill currently stands.
While HR 7025 and HR 7026 have both only recently been introduced as potential legislation, the bipartisan sponsorship of these bills and the public health needs that these bills address may support their chances of eventually being signed into law. It remains to be seen how this legislation will evolve as it is debated in Congress and what the likelihood is of either bill being passed.
Grant Potential for Clinical Laboratories?
Clinical laboratories that have experienced decreased revenue and test volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while simultaneously facing increased capital expenditures in setting up SARS-CoV-2 testing assays, may benefit from the grants these pieces of legislation may provide. Clinical laboratory leaders with an interest in the outcome of these bills should consider advocating for themselves and, as affected experts, provide information to their local representatives about the potential benefits of these bills.
Clinical laboratory leaders will want to stay apprised of developments and changes to these bills (HR 7025 and HR 7026) as they progress through the legislative process. This will enable them to understand if the bills are likely to be passed and will enable them to better anticipate the potential financial benefits they may be likely to experience.
–By Caleb Williams, Editor, COVID-19 STAT
HR 7025 Text (High-Throughput Equipment)
HR 7026 Text (Rapid Same-Day Testing)