April 27, 2016 02:29 PM
WASHINGTON — Today, the Coalition for Equal Access to Allergy Testing (CEAAT) officially launched to help improve access to allergy testing by eliminating inappropriate insurance coverage barriers to guidelines-based care. CEAAT, an alliance of patient, public health, provider, and other stakeholder groups and individuals is focused on improving early intervention for patients with allergies, ensuring patients have equal access to all medically recommended allergy tests and thereby receive care according to National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines more specifically, the NHLBI Asthma Guidelines and NIAID Food Allergy Guidelines.
The Coalition’s mission is to work collaboratively with federal and state agencies, policy makers, clinicians, public health organizations, patients, and other stakeholders to reduce healthcare disparities by advocating for and establishing policies designed to improve patient access to allergy testing as indicated and recommended by national guidelines. Unfortunately, many Medicaid and Medicare allergy testing policies have placed excessive restrictions on allergy blood tests, which are recognized as being equivalent with skin prick tests by the NIH, as well as peer-reviewed medical and scientific literature.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, affecting more than 50 million Americans at an annual cost in excess of $18 billion. Anyone may have or develop an allergy, and while there is no known cure, allergies can be managed with prevention and treatment.
“Allergies impact a growing number of Americans from all walks of life, but children and minorities are disproportionately impacted and may have trouble accessing the care they need” said Dr. Inderpal Randhawa, a founding member of CEAAT. “Unfortunately, those impacted the most are not always able to receive the best available care and CEAAT is well positioned to help the most disadvantaged Americans receive the high quality healthcare they deserve” added Dr. Randhawa. “We are committed to closing the gap in health care access for people of color,” said Terry Lawlah, Executive Director of The Maryland Center at Bowie State University, “and we know this focused effort by CEAAT to remove barriers to allergy testing can have a significant impact to reduce health care disparities.”
Although children and minorities are hit the hardest, the Medicare population is not immune from the impact of allergies. Nearly 5 million Americans aged 65 or older have been diagnosed with asthma, which represents more than 16% of all adults who suffer from asthma which is often triggered by respiratory-based allergies. And nearly 4 million elderly Americans suffer from hay fever, which equates to nearly 20% of all U.S. adults who are afflicted by this allergy.
CEAAT members include: Colored My Mind, FAACT (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team), Laboratory Corporation of America® Holdings (LabCorp®), The Maryland Center at Bowie State University, Michelle Meeks, M.D., (South Suburban Family Health), National Association of School Nurses, National Black Child Development Institute, Quest Diagnostics, Inderpal Randhawa, M.D., (Assoc. Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine), Reid Temple AME Church, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and The Translational Pulmonary and Immunology Research Center. The coalition is committed to improving access to medically appropriate allergy testing by eliminating inappropriate insurance coverage barriers to guidelines-based care. Doing so will reduce healthcare disparities, particularly among lower income and minority populations and those in under-served rural and urban areas.
Through education and advocacy at the local, state and federal levels, CEAAT members are focused on ensuring that Medicaid and Medicare policies reflect, and align with, current best practices and guidelines-based care to enable patients to receive high quality health care.