In March 2014, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wrote a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) urging the agency to continue reimbursing high-priced drug tests, even as one laboratory was being investigated for fraud tied to unnecessary testing, according to The Palm Beach Post.
In the letter, Bondi told CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner that "confirmatory testing" was critical in combating a "life-threatening" false-negative result from standard drug testing methods. However, documents show that two years prior, Bondi's office was alerted of a fraud scheme involving San Diego-based Millennium Health, and under the direction of the Attorney General's Office, the state's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit began working with federal prosecutors to investigate the suspicious claims. In October, Millennium agreed to pay $256 million to resolve allegations that it billed for unnecessary confirmatory drug tests, although the laboratory is still facing legal backlash from Humana.
Bondi told the Palm Beach Post that at the time she sent the letter, "the investigation had not risen to the level of my attention," and acknowledged that the letter should not have been sent.
But as the newspaper reveals, Bondi's letter to CMS echoed Millennium's marketing language, including misleading statistics about the reliability of "pee-in-a-cup" drug testing and antidepressant use among expectant mothers. Records show Millennium donated $67,500 to the Republican Party of Florida, which helped fund Bondi's campaign. In 2010, Millennium paid $312,000 to fund a statewide database to track opioid prescribing, a key element of Bondi's campaign at the time.
Drug testing has been called a "provider money spigot" because of the high frequency of expensive and often unnecessary drug testing. In general, lab services have caught the eye of the Office of Inspector General, particularly the relationship between laboratories and physicians.
To learn more:
- read the Palm Beach Post article