On April 20, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it has charged 21 defendants in nine different US districts for allegedly carrying out COVID-19 scams worth just over $149 million. Among the defendants were a number of medical testing labs.
In several cases, defendants allegedly offered COVID-19 testing to get patients to provide a blood or saliva sample and personal identifying information, which they then used to bill Medicare for unrelated, more expensive tests in violation of the False Claims Act.
The other common COVID-19 fraud pattern involved labs and other providers seeking to take advantage of the Medicare waivers and relaxation of regulatory rules that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) put in place early in the public health emergency in the interest of expanding access to care, including schemes involving telemedicine.
The OIG has been warning the public and providers about COVID-19 scams almost from the start of the public health emergency. In May 2021, the DOJ completed a COVID-19 Enforcement Action charging 14 defendants for over $143 million in false billing and COVID-19 relief scams. Last month, President Biden named a special prosecutor to lead the DOJ’s COVID-19 fraud enforcement actions.