Since February, pathologists and the laboratories we lead across the country have increased testing capacity for COVID-19 to a point where we are now providing more than 400,000 tests to patients each day.


While significant challenges still lie ahead, Americans are far better off today managing the coronavirus pandemic under the current testing capacity — and pathologists remain determined continue to do more for their patients.


At my laboratory in Lenexa, we brought COVID-19 testing online to support our local health care community in a matter of weeks when similar tests can take months, if not a full year, to set up before testing patients. We are testing over 1,500 Kansans a day and offer a quick turnaround of less than 24 hours for results.


It is this type of quality laboratory services at home, along with coordination with local hospitals, treating physicians and nurses, that will lead our community through the pandemic.


Unfortunately, in six months, quality pathology and laboratory services will be devalued by decision-makers in Washington, D.C., who are running the Medicare program. The agency overseeing Medicare is scheduled to cut payment for pathology services by 8% beginning in 2021. The cuts are simply the result of a budgetary mechanism.


Last November, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finalized payment reductions to all non-evaluation and management services to be enacted in January 2021.


CMS decided and pathology organizations like the College of American Pathologists fully agree that physicians who see patients regularly, such as primary care doctors, should be paid more. However, to accomplish this CMS has decided to shift funds from specialists who do not typically provide E/M services, including pathologists, in order for CMS to comply with strict statutory requirements.


But it is not just pathologists who will be harmed by this budget cut. Radiologists, anesthesiologists, cardiac surgeons and emergency room physicians will also see payment for their services reduced by Medicare next year. I am particularly concerned with the potential effect the cut will have on patients as physicians wrestle with decisions about how to adjust their practices after receiving less payment for the care they provide.


And a significant Medicare cut to pathology could not come at a worse time. Our country needs strong laboratories overseen by qualified, local pathologist physicians.


The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a bright light on the services that pathologists and laboratories provide in our health care system through laboratory testing. Pathologists have experienced the same significant financial stresses as many others with the downturn in the economy, yet we worked overtime to offer COVID-19 tests while realizing we faced economic shortfalls due to dramatic drops in traditional laboratory services.


Like other businesses, our practices are feeling the effects of shelter-in-place and shutdown orders. With these pressures, absorbing an 8% reduction in payment from Medicare will be too much for some pathology practices to bear.


Congress must act urgently to stop these arbitrary payment cuts to providers throughout the health care system. Our community is already managing one disaster with the pandemic.


Now is not the time to cut payment to the providers who are working hard to get us through. Our leaders in Washington, D.C., must take action and avoid making an already challenging situation worse.


Samuel K. Caughron is the president and CEO of MAWD Pathology and a practicing pathologist in Lenexa.