Durbin, Duckworth Call for Expanding Coronavirus Testing Capability by Providing Flexibility to Testing Laboratories

As hospitals and testing laboratories still face multi-day testing delays, additional flexibility in staffing and license requirements is needed for rapid testing expansion

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), today called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide additional regulatory flexibility to hospitals and private laboratories to enable scaled-up testing capacity for the novel coronavirus. Even as rapid testing is becoming available, hospitals are still facing delays in obtaining patient results and commercial testing labs have backlogs of up to 160,000 tests.

“As CMS oversees laboratories running COVID-19 diagnostics, CMS can and should continue to issue transparent, flexible, and real-time guidance that can help increase testing to meet the growing demands for it,” wrote the Senators to HHS Assistant Secretary Dr. Brett Giroir and CMS Administrator Seema Verma.  “Additional flexibility in staffing and license requirements for hospital and private testing laboratories can enable them to rapidly and effectively increase testing capacity in a way that meets the urgency of this crisis.”

Testing laboratories attempting to expand coronavirus diagnostic testing face the challenge of quickly bringing on additional staff to ramp up capacity and to replace staff sidelined by the virus. Laboratories could recruit well-qualified personnel, with experience in laboratory settings, to fill shortages and increase testing capacity, but current regulations have restrictive requirements that prevent experienced personnel from filling the critical need for testing staff.  The Senators called for CMS to ensure that requirements for testing personnel do not serve as a barrier to expanded testing capacity.

Full text of the letter is available here.