FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2019
National Society of Genetic Counselors Supports Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act
Newly introduced Act will improve the quality of genetic services, lower healthcare costs
Washington, D.C. – A bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives June 12, 2019 that would authorize the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to recognize certified genetic counselors (CGCs) as healthcare providers. H.R. 3235, the “Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act of 2019,” would improve Medicare beneficiaries’ accessibility to genetic counselors, healthcare professionals who provide specialized services in medical genetics and counseling. Research demonstrates that CGCs improve the quality of patients’ healthcare and reduce the costs of genetic services – all priorities as personalized medicine and genetics become more prevalent.
The bill was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) and developed by working closely with the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC). CGCs are not currently recognized by 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.
“As the leading voice for the genetic counseling profession, the National Society of Genetic Counselors is pleased Representatives Loebsack and Kelly have taken this step to allow Medicare patients to access genetic counselors,” said Amy Sturm, MS, LCGC, NSGC president. “CMS recognition has been a priority for our organization because the services genetic counselors provide can have a huge impact on the health of individuals and their families, especially as both the benefits of personalized medicine and complexities of genetic testing are expanding.”
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.
“Adding genetic counselors as qualified Medicare providers is an important link in achieving optimal health system performance,” said Sturm. “We already know genetic counselors improve the quality of care and reduce costs, and when this passes we’ll also be accessible to a larger population. We encourage people to contact their members of Congress to ask for support of H.R. 3235.”
To learn more about genetic counselors and the services they provide, visit AboutGeneticCounselors.com.
About the National Society of Genetic Counselors
NSGC is the leading voice, authority, and advocate for the genetic counseling profession. Membership represents more than 3,900 masters-level health professionals, who are committed to ensuring that the public has access to genetic counseling and genetic testing. Visit www.NSGC.org.
# # #