Solutions to the clinical laboratory’s biggest challenges are working their way through Congress, but they won’t become law without a major push from medical laboratory professionals, harder than we’ve ever pushed before.

Finally, Acknowledgement on Laboratory Workforce

Tomorrow, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will begin work on the proposed Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act (BPCHWA), which includes a section that would authorize $300 million in funding for a workforce innovation grant program within the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for community health centers and rural health clinics to carry out innovative, community-driven models to educate and train a wide range of allied health professionals, specifically including laboratory professionals. In addition, the laws would authorize the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants and contracts to provide allied health training opportunities for high school students. This change would allow allied health training programs to inform high school students of allied health careers, including a range of skilled positions serving patients in clinical laboratories, and available financial aid.

Allied health professions represent nearly 1/3 of the health care workforce but have not received the focus and attention from the Congress that physicians and nurses have over the past several decades. This legislation represents an acknowledgement of the vital roles and essential work within the U.S. health system by laboratory professionals and that significant shortages in allied health occupations persist.

ASCLS has drafted a letter of support and is circulating it to the rest of the members of the newly formed Medical and Public Health Laboratory Workforce Coalition ( to try and have our entire community speak with one voice on this. Opportunities to push this measure forward will be forthcoming.

Money Talks

As you know by now, the Saving Access to Laboratory Services Act (SALSA) would prevent an up to 15 percent payment cut to laboratory tests, protect patient access to laboratory services, and ensure a robust health care infrastructure.

Tomorrow, on Thursday, September 21 our community will hold a “Day of Action” to stop these lab cuts and urging Congress to enact SALSA this year. This is the first of many steps getting to the end game later this year. It’s easy to participate. Sample graphics have been developed for you to tell your own story on social media:

Without any action, on January 1, Medicare rates for clinical laboratories will be cut by 15 percent. Those cuts will be matched by private insurers shortly after. This equates to billions of dollars lost for clinical laboratories. It would mean unfilled positions in laboratories would be eliminated. Clinical laboratories that have served as clinical sites for education programs would likely decline to participate any longer.

SALSA is bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would bolster a strong clinical laboratory infrastructure that protects public health and innovation in tomorrow’s diagnostics while providing robust access to improve patient health. More information about the legislation and campaign can be found here.

The Choice

Those in healthcare typically marvel at the ability of organized nursing to use their clout. With 3 million nurses, and just 300,000 laboratory professionals, we’ll need to work 10x harder to get the same results.

As a community, can we walk AND chew gum at the same time? For the sake of patients and this profession, I certainly hope so. As members of ASCLS, you understand this, but for us to be successful, we need the entire community to be engaged. Yesterday, ASCLS sent an alert to more than 51,000 certified laboratory professionals. As of this morning while more than 45% had opened the message, but only 3% took action.

Disengagement is a choice, and that choice has consequences. We need you to inspire others to choose to engage in this process.

The End Game

If Congress functioned normally, it would pass appropriations bills to fund the government and get them signed by the President before the federal government’s fiscal year ends on September 30th. Yes, that’s just 10 days away. It won’t happen this year, and to be fair, it hasn’t happened for a while.

What Congress has been doing lately is passing Continuing Resolutions to fund the government at the existing levels for temporary time periods and then passing a Omnibus bill that includes all of the appropriations in one. We anticipate this will happen again this year toward the end of Fall or early Winter.

The problem today is that the House of Representatives is paralyzed by internal conflicts in the Republican caucus. Republicans control the House and all spending and tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives. You can see how this might be a problem.

The end game is to push very hard on both workforce and reimbursement legislation through the end of the year and have them included in any end of year Omnibus bill. This will require sustained effort across our community.