House committee shoots down lab choice provision

Posted July 28, 2015

— Members of the House Judiciary II Committee rejected an amendment Tuesday that would have given doctors broader latitude in selecting which laboratories they use to analyze blood and other patient samples.

Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, tried to attach the measure to House Bill 287, a measure dealing with several areas of insurance law.

"This improves competition in these services," Stam told the committee, adding that more competition would lead to better outcomes for patients.

Under current law, health insurers can limit a doctor or other provider from selecting a laboratory or deny a lab company the ability to come under contract as a part of the insurers' network.

Stam said he shopped the bill around and had agreement from some quarters, including the state Department of Insurance.

"I did discuss it with LabCorp representatives, and they didn't like it, of course," Stam said, referencing one of the biggest laboratory services companies in the state.

Other members of the committee, including Rep. Dana Bumgardner, R-Gaston, said they would be willing to look at the issue but didn't want to make it a last-minute attachment to an otherwise noncontroversial bill.

Bumgardner made the motion to kill Stam's provision.

"This would allow the doctor to decide what they want," said Chad Price, of Mako Medical Laboratories, told the committee.

Mako Medical, Price said, can often turn results faster for certain tests than some other companies. When dealing with infants or breast cancer patients, he said, "You don't want to wait five days for a result."

The provision would have required that the company not already working with the insurer would have to be able to provide the same service for the same price.

"It's not like it's going to cost them any more from getting the results back faster," he said.

But representatives of insurers said that the provision could cause problems.

"We think this actually will impede competition," said Chris Evans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina's director of regulatory affairs.

Evans said her company evaluates labs on the quality of their work, not just on price.

"We'd be concerned about the quality of labs we'd be required to accept into our network," she said.

A lobbyist for United Healthcare also spoke against the provision.

The measure was removed, with only Stam voting to keep it.


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