The United States Attorney in South Carolina has intervened in a False Claims Act case against a chiropractor, his network of pain management clinics, and urine drug testing laboratories. There are three relators in the case. The three relators were previously employed at the limited liability company that owned and operated the pain management clinics as the Chief Operations Officer, Certified Medical Assistant, and Clinic Coordinator respectively.
The Complaint alleges that physicians were employed and paid by Oaktree, one of the pain management clinics owned by the chiropractor. It is further alleged that physicians performed a presumptive POC test at the clinic and ordered definitive UDT testing on urine samples that was processed by Oaktree. Eventually, the chiropractor began operating an independent clinical laboratory, Labsource. The various clinics sent the patient urine samples to Labsource for presumptive and definitive UDT testing. The Complaint alleges that the urine testing was medically unnecessary. The Complaint also alleges that the testing was “excessive” and that physicians had a standing order form for testing in place.
The Complaint further alleges that Oaktree paid physicians for referrals in violation of the Stark Law. Specifically, it is alleged that the physicians were compensated based on the volume and/or value of referrals for UDT testing. It also alleges that physicians entered into direct bill agreement with physicians and other providers in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute. The “direct bill” agreements had providers pay a set fee for the test panels, but the providers charged the insurance companies a lot more for the tests.
This case demonstrates the conundrum that pain doctors are facing. On the one hand, there is a war on opioid use – pain doctors should be regularly testing patients that are being prescribed opioids. However, routine testing or too much testing is viewed as unnecessary.