Millennium Health LLC in the conservative “small-government” bastion of San Diego is now facing about $250 million in fines for over-charging Medicare for drug testing, reports indicate.
Millennium was charging $1,000 per drug test for seniors on pain medications, instead of the usual $175, as the company screened septuagenarians for exotic youth club drugs like MDMA and Ketamine.
Millennium isn’t one bad apple, either.
Nationally, Medicare payouts for drug testing soared 2,000 percent over six years to $612 million in 2013, an extensive Wall Street Journal investigation has found. Prescribing opioids, then testing for abuse of the addictive painkillers, has turned into a cash cow for pain clinics.
Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, notes that the federal war on marijuana plays a prominent role in the scam. The definition of painkiller “abuse” can include taking legal, safer, doctor-recommended botanical cannabis.
“What an outrageous misuse of medicare funds,” stated Gieringer. “Uncle Sam is actually subsidizing drug testing companies to test for drugs like marijuana that have nothing to do with opiate abuse. Drug-testing companies are guilty of malpractice in promoting testing for marijuana in chronic pain patients. Many patients can drastically reduce their dependence on opiates by substituting marijuana instead. Yet the same patients are being wrongfully tested and forced to give up marijuana by pain clinics. No wonder the US is suffering an epidemic of opiate abuse – Medicare subsidies are encouraging unnecessary drug tests.”
Medicare is expected to reduce payouts for drug testing over-billing in 2016, but “the proposal could face fierce opposition from some in the lab industry, which viewed Medicare payments as a primary source of growth after private insurers curbed payments in recent years,” the Journal reports.