We Are Sunshine

Just as doctors are encouraging vitamin D testing, the government may cut access to the tests

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

JULY 2, 2009 — Just as doctors are starting to wake up to the importance of knowing their patients’ vitamin D levels, the federal government’s insurance programs are proposing cutbacks that would limit reimbursements for vitamin D tests.

2009-07-02-blocking-the-d-test-tanningnews-copy.jpg“Despite this high level of interest in Vitamin D, Medicare’s largest carrier has proposed restricting reimbursements to medical laboratories for routine Vitamin D testing. The Dark Report reported that Medicare contractor National Government Services (NGS) said it would cover Vitamin D testing only for patients with chronic kidney disease, osteomalacia, hypercalcemia, and rickets and NGS would deny other testing for Vitamin D,” The Dark Report — an on-line newsletter for clinical laboratories and the pathology industry — reported this week.

Robert Michaels, who writes The Dark Report, pointed out that this seems to contradict the point of a $20 million federally funded study announced in June that will prospectively examine the effect of higher vitamin D doses in an attempt to confirm the hundreds of studies that now link vitamin D with lower risk of most forms of cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and other disorders.

“Clinical laboratory managers and pathologists have a right to be frustrated at the mixed messages being sent by different agencies of the federal government. Before the results of this large, federally-funding study will be known, its Medicare carriers are taking steps to restrict access to routine Vitamin D testing by Medicare beneficiaries. Once again, the nation’s medical laboratories are caught in the middle between how physicians practice medicine — and order laboratory tests — and government restrictions on how laboratories can submit claims and be paid for these tests,” Michaels wrote.

A vitamin D blood test — also known as a calcidiol test, or a 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D test — is the only way to accurately gauge a person’s vitamin D status. Vitamin D researchers now recommend vitamin D blood levels of 40-60 nanograms-per-milliliter (or 100-150 nanomoles per liter) and 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily from all sources to maintain that level.

The number of vitamin D tests ordered by laboratories in the United States doubled in 2008.

To read Michaels’ column click here.