Back in November, we covered a Health Leaders story about a new lab coding requirement UnitedHealthcare planned to implement in early 2021, smack in the middle of cold and flu season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To recap, this new policy would require all in-network, freestanding and outpatient labs to include an additional unique code for their testing claims to be covered—that’s right, another code on top of existing CPT codes. United went so far as to state that claims coming in without these new codes would be denied as a matter of course. The America Hospital Association and various other provider groups pushed back publicly, stating that this policy would put unnecessary burdens on providers and potentially even serve as a blocker to widespread COVID-19 testing—a core component of public health efforts to control the pandemic. While we’re thrilled to learn that AHA’s efforts were effective (United has agreed to delay implementation of this policy until early 2022), we’re discouraged by the overall pattern of United’s behavior. Becker’s points out that this is not the first administrative policy the insurer has attempted to implement during the COVID-19 pandemic. United tried to roll out a similarly burdensome policy regarding emergency room claims (Yes, you heard that right… emergency care ) back in March. Why now, when access to care is especially critical? Why ever, when the policies in question seemingly add no value to members and actually divert providers’ attention from delivering their care?
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