J Genet Couns. 2014 Aug 20. [Epub ahead of print]
Exploring Barriers to Payer Utilization of Genetic Counselors.
Access to genetic counselors' services is neither universal nor automatic, due in part to the gatekeeper role of healthcare payers - the companies and agencies that purchase healthcare services on patients' behalf and control the bulk of healthcare spending. This pilot study surveyed and analyzed the relative importance of barriers to expanded payer coverage of genetic counselors' services. Surveys were mailed to 263 medical directors and quality assurance directors at health insurance carriers throughout the United States. Respondents provided demographic information and indicated the importance of nine possible barriers, plus an optional write-in "other." Twenty-two surveys were analyzed. "Evidence that use of genetic counselors improves health outcomes" led the list of factors having a significant/very significant influence on coverage policy. Sixteen respondents (73 %) rated this factor "4" or "5" on a Likert scale; it also received the most #1 rankings and the highest score using a weighted-mean analysis. Provider practice guidelines, CMS/Medicare regulations, and genetic counselor licensure-all of which are outside of payers' direct control-also ranked highly. The research demonstrates that although the potential barriers to expanded reimbursement for genetic counselors are numerous and complex, some are more consistently identified as important and therefore more deserving of legislative and advocacy resources to effect change. Future research should endeavor to increase survey response and include providers as well as payers. (222 words).
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