Congressmen Dave Loebsack (IA-01) and Mike Kelly (PA-16) recently introduced legislation that would recognize certified genetic counselors (CGCs) as Medicare healthcare providers. The “Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act of 2019,” HR 3235, would allow Medicare beneficiaries access to genetic counselors, who provide specialized services in medical genetics and counseling. This legislation has been developed along with the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC).
“As personalized medicine and genetics become more prevalent in our healthcare system, it is as important as ever that Medicare recipients have access to certified genetic counselors. These genetic counselors help improve the quality of care and help reduce costs,” said Rep. Loebsack. “I was pleased to work with Rep. Kelly to introduce this bill and look forward to expanding the use of genetic testing.”
“It is long past time that we recognize licensed genetic counselors as Medicare providers so that Medicare beneficiaries have access to the breakthroughs of genetic testing and counseling services,” said Rep. Kelly. “I’m proud to introduce this bill with Congressman Loebsack and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the 116th Congress to further update and modernize our health care system for all Americans.”
Background on the Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act of 2019
Certified genetic counselors (CGCs) are not currently recognized by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), even though genetic counseling is a covered benefit under Medicare. As a result, CGCs cannot be reimbursed for counseling Medicare beneficiaries, which impedes access to these uniquely trained healthcare professionals who attended specialized master degree programs in genetic counseling. CGCs bring expertise to the healthcare team by guiding and supporting patients seeking more information about how inherited diseases and conditions might affect them or their families, and to interpret test results.
The passage of this Act would reverse the current Medicare policies that limit physician referrals to genetic counselor services. Lack of access can result in harm such as incorrect interpretations of genetic test results, failure to identify individuals’ genetic risk, and inaccurate risk assessments leading to inappropriate medical management and sometimes death. The passage will also help lower healthcare costs by ensuring the appropriate use of genetic testing.
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