Medicare will pay almost twice as much for high-throughput COVID-19 tests compared with conventional testing methods, the CMS said Wednesday.
The agency hopes that higher reimbursements for new testing methods will accelerate their adoption.
The move will "allow for increased testing capacity, faster results, and more effective means of combating the spread of the virus," CMS said. "High-throughput lab tests can process more than two hundred specimens a day using highly sophisticated equipment that requires specially trained technicians and more time-intensive processes to assure quality."
Labs will get paid $100 for the tests starting April 14 and ending with the COVID-19 national emergency.
Many labs aren't performing high-throughput tests because they're more complicated and expensive to process, said CMS Administrator Seema Verma during a call with reporters.
"That's why we're increasing the reimbursement," she said.
Providers and public health officials have struggled to contain the virus thanks to long incubation periods that cause asymptomatic people to spread COVID-19 to other people before they realize they're sick and get tested.
In addition, the U.S. has restricted access to testing for people exhibiting symptoms of infection due to limited testing availability. But even when people get tested for COVID-19, it can take a week or more to process the results.
After a slow initial rollout, the Trump administration has taken several actions in recent weeks to improve and expand testing. They include boosting specimen collection fees for COVID-19 patients outside a hospital setting, including nursing homes, and allowing providers to test people at home or other community-based settings like makeshift drive-thru testing facilities, among other actions.