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Abusive practices in drug testing

I’m talking about the urine drug testing used to ensure patients are taking the drugs they are being prescribed, and ONLY the drugs they are being prescribed.

The “abuse” is on the part of unscrupulous physicians and drug testing companies, who work together to scam employers and taxpayers.

Here is a quick list of some of the more egregious practices I’ve heard about.

  • sham partnerships, wherein a doc “buys in” to an LLC, along with a bunch of other docs who buy into a couple other LLCs.  When doc A writes a script for drug testing, it goes to one of the three LLCs that he has NOT bought into.  Similarly, when the other docs write scripts, they are sending patients to doc A’s testing company. Neat, huh?
  • a drug testing company leases a machine to a doc’s office, pays the doc a few hundred bucks for each test, and keeps the rest for themselves.
  • leasing space, wherein a testing company rents a couple square feet from the doc, and puts a machine in there.  You may surmise that the rental fee is really high…and you’d be right!
  • sham testing, wherein a doc charges for the “qualitative” test (look at the pee in the cup and the colors of the indicators), a “confirmation” test (pour the pee into a bigger machine that does essentially the same thing); and a “semi-quantative” (turn a switch on the same machine to give numerical scores and not just yes/no indicators.  One machine, one cup, three billing opportunities!

What does this mean for you?

With drug testing costs exploding, make damn sure you are working with the good actors, and monitor everyone.

4 thoughts on “Abusive practices in drug testing”

  1. Here’s another abusive practice: these labs claim that the urine tests can be used to assess compliance to a prescribed regimen. Without regard to the medical literature and case law, marketing and spin continue to trump evidence.

  2. Is it naive to think that “Joe the Blogger” knows about these “abusive practices” of the system while the regulators, legislators and carriers are completely oblivious?

  3. Joe beat the drum quite loudly on physician dispensing and he can, in part, take some credit for many of the regulations enacted by various states.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates




A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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