UnitedHealthcare delays coding changes for lab tests

UnitedHealthcare will push back a change for coding laboratory tests until Jan. 1, 2022, a little less than a year after it was supposed to take effect.

The decision to delay implementation of the change from April 1, 2021, to the start of 2022 comes after the American Hospital Association urged UnitedHealthcare to forgo the policy in August. The association said that the policy is "burdensome and negatively impacts patients' access to care."

Under the policy, in-network, freestanding and outpatient hospital lab claims for most lab tests have to contain a lab's unique test code or the claim will be denied. UnitedHealthcare said each code submitted on a claim must match a corresponding lab test registration that's provided in advance to the health insurer. 

The change applies to most commercial, Medicare Advantage and community plan networks.

This isn't the first policy UnitedHealthcare has delayed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, UnitedHealthcare said it was delaying the implementation of a new policy that will affect professional emergency department claims submitted with the level 5 evaluation/management code 99285. 

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