There are not many people who can’t wait to have their blood drawn for diagnostic testing. Even fewer people want to do it twice. On the other hand, medical testing giant Quest Diagnostics Inc. did enjoy getting paid twice. According to the US Attorney’s office, the company was submitting duplicate claims to Medicare for a variety of services including blood draws, panel tests and other diagnostic procedures.
Quest agreed to pay the US government $1.8 million to settle Medicare fraud investigations in California.
The False Claims Act case was brought to light by a former employee of Quest. Elisa Martinez worked as a phlebotomist beginning in 2009 at Quest’s Red Bluff, Calif. Location. She quickly realized that the center was double dipping, submitting false claims to Medicare. In her whistleblower’s complaint, Martinez said her employer was knowingly submitting duplicate claims “for the same test, performed on the same day, on the same patient.”
When she asked her supervisor why they were unnecessarily drawing multiple blood vials for the same tests on the same patient, her supervisor advised Martinez to “listen more and back up everybody,” according to the complaint.
Martinez says she raised issues and asked questions about why she was being instructed to draw more blood than necessary. Her supervisor told her to “back up everybody” and ignored her allegations. However, she was fired on June 6, 2011 after four months of being put on leave.
The US False Claims Act allows individuals, like Martinez, to speak up when they become aware of wrongdoing. Fraud against the government costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year. A significant amount of money is recouped annually thanks to brave private citizens who decide to become whistleblowers and do what’s right. As a reward, whistleblowers are entitled to a portion of the proceeds recouped in a successful false claims act case.
In the Quest case, $358,000 of the $1.8 million recovered funds will be paid to Martinez for her help in unearthing the scheme.
Quest, headquartered in Madison, New Jersey, says it will update its billing processes to prevent double billing in the future.
If you or someone you know has information that may lead to uncovering fraud being committed against the US government, you owe it to yourself to speak with a qualified qui tam lawyer who can review your evidence and help determine if you have a whistleblower claim. Contact Begelman & Orlow for a free consultation about your case today.