Millennium Health drug testing lab in settlement talks with federal government

High-priced laboratory fraud settlements continue to roll in, as Millennium Health LLC, the nation's largest drug testing laboratory, is negotiating a settlement to resolve allegations that it billed Medicare for unnecessary tests, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sources tell the WSJ that the settlement could reach as much as $250 million, although both sides are still hashing out the details of the final settlement. Allegations that Millennium billed Medicare for unnecessary drug tests dates back to 2012, when the Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating the company for selling testing services to pain clinics, as well as intimidating former employees, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors allege that Millennium inflated Medicare bills by performing unnecessary tests and billed for high-tech drug tests, even when cheaper tests showed normal levels.

The potential settlement highlights the ongoing federal crackdown on laboratory services, which has forced many laboratories to review relationships with physicians. An advisory opinion released by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in March pointed to the potential kickback implications associated with these relationships. Last July, the OIG targeted high payments to laboratories, as well as the potential risks associated with physician payments that exceed fair market value.

Health Lab Diagnostics recently paid nearly $50 million to the feds to settle claims that it improperly paid physicians for blood samples. Meanwhile, convictions and guilty pleas continue to roll in for those involved with the scam operated by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC, which took more than $100 million from Medicare.

Millennium's settlement talks have raised questions about how Medicare pays for drug tests, according to the WSJ, a service some call a provider "money spigot". Medicare payments to physicians and labs for high-tech urine drug testing spiked nearly 2,000 percent from 2007 to 2013, prompting new payment proposals that could shift drug test reimbursements to lump sum payments.

To learn more:
- here's the Reuters article
- read the Wall Street Journal article

Related Articles
Wave of enforcement forces labs to look at relationships with physicians
OIG: Exclusive agreements between labs, physicians could count as kickbacks
Lab services, pay arrangements draw OIG's eye
Health Diagnostics Laboratory to pay nearly $50 million to settle kickback allegations
Feds land another guilty plea tied to $100 million bribery scheme
Drug screening a provider 'money spigot'

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