COVID testing company accused of providing invalid tests, storing tests in garbage bags
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Washington State has filed a lawsuit against a nationwide COVID-19 testing company with a location in Tucson.
In the lawsuit, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson claimed the Center for COVID Control, an Illinois-based company, provided invalid, false and delayed COVID-19 test results, or sometimes provided no results at all.
Ferguson said the company’s “unlawful practices included storing tests in garbage bags for over a week rather than properly refrigerating them, and backdating sample collection dates so that stale samples would still be processed.”
Employees allegedly told Ferguson’s office they were told to lie to patients on a daily basis when customers complained about delayed results.
Ferguson said the company’s Director of Operations instructed employees to start falsely post-dating samples to make them appear more recent than they actually were, and submit them for testing anyway so the company could potentially still bill insurance companies or the federal government for the tests.
Former employees told Ferguson’s office if a patient called multiple times asking for their results, employees were instructed to lie and tell them that their results were inconclusive and they needed to take another test, allowing the company to bill for two tests.
Sabrina Del Campo contacted us after she heard about some of these allegations.
“I started panicking right away because I didn’t know what was going on. I started thinking, ‘What did I get myself into?’ Del Campo said.
Del Campo said she resigned from her position at Center for COVID Control’s Tucson location off Speedway Boulevard.
Del Campo said they were never asked to lie at the Tucson location and she said as far as she knows, things were done correctly.
The Center for COVID Control temporarily paused all operations effective January 14 to “train additional staff on sample collection handling, customer service and communications best practices, as well as compliance with regulatory guidelines.”
The company was supposed to re-open Jan. 22, but when the company postponed its reopening date, Del Campo said she had to find other work.
Now, she wants answers.
Ferguson said Center for COVID Control reportedly billed the federal government $124 million for tests for “uninsured” patients. Ferguson said the company frequently marked patients as “uninsured,” even if they were insured. Ferguson said as testing ramped up, the company “streamlined” its data entry for and autofilled “uninsured” as the default insurance for all patients.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Center for COVID Control to stop all its unlawful conduct, including its misrepresentation to consumers and false test results, pay civil penalties of up to $12,500 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act, which includes $5,000 in enhanced penalties for targeting vulnerable populations, and relinquish any profits the company made from its unlawful conduct, in addition to any attorneys’ costs and fees.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced the Center for COVID Control based in Rolling Meadows, Illinois will not reopen in Illinois for the foreseeable future.
“I opened an investigation into the Center for COVID Control in response to our residents contacting my office to report a number of concerning issues at the Center for COVID Control’s pop-up COVID-19 testing locations throughout Illinois. Complaints have ranged from testing results being delayed or not received at all, to results being provided to individuals who where never administered a test, to tests being stored improperly, and staff incorrectly using PPE and face masks.”
Raoul said although the company voluntarily suspended operations, the company’s representatives agreed it would postpone the reopening of any pop-up testing locations in Illinois for the foreseeable future.
The Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit on Jan. 19 claiming the company either failed to deliver test results, or delivered test results that were falsified or inaccurate.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is also investing the company’s laboratory.
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