April 8, 2011

CMS Will Change Physician Signature Requirement for Laboratory Requisitions

As we previously reported, on February 11, 2011, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) informed various trade associations that it was pulling back a new rule requiring physician signatures on all laboratory requisitions. Although an official announcement to this effect was expected due to concerns expressed by lab associations and others, it appears that CMS could not withdraw the rule before it took effect on April 1, 2011.  The laboratory industry contends that this rule would cause disruption and confusion, a position supported by bipartisan letters sent to CMS by Representatives of the House and Senate.

Now, instead of formally announcing the withdrawal of the physician signature requirement, CMS issued a transmittal to Part B carriers and the physician community effectively stating that this requirement will not be enforced.  This notice states that “After further input from the laboratory community, CMS has decided to focus its resources for the remainder of 2011 on changing the regulation that requires signatures on laboratory requisitions because of concerns that physicians, [non-physician practitioners] and clinical diagnostic laboratories are having difficulty complying with this policy.”  Since CMS was not able to formally rescind the rule prior to its April 1 effective date, it appears determined to do so through the formal rulemaking process this year.

We will continue to follow and report developments in this area.

This post was contributed by Kurt E. Bratten.