New Yorkers tagged with medical bills of $100 and up after taking supposedly free COVID tests will receive refunds as part of a settlement between Attorney General Letitia James and a Brooklyn-based physicians group.
James on Thursday announced the settlement with Carecube, which will have to dole out $300,000 to the state’s general fund following an investigation sparked, in part, by reporting in THE CITY.
“This predatory behavior was unjust and illegal, and I am pleased that New Yorkers who were wrongfully charged will get their money back,” James said in a statement.
Carecube had more than 20 COVID-19 testing sites across the city at the pandemic’s peak, but in 2021 dozens of customers said they were charged at least $100 for tests that should have been fully covered by insurance policies.
At the time, Carecube defended charging customers for those screenings, saying staffers were obligated to conduct a “pre-test assessment” even before swabbing a patient’s nose.
A spokesperson for the company, whose website says it still operates five clinics in Brooklyn and The Bronx, could not be reached for comment. In the settlement, representatives for Carecube said they had issued refunds to some customers they improperly charged.
As part of the settlement, Carecube modified its billing system and has agreed to notify the attorney general’s office in writing if it resumes offering COVID tests, which the company stopped doing last April. It also agreed to train staff on the new billing process.
Customers wrongfully billed will be fully paid back with 9% interest as part of the settlement, the attorney general’s office said.
Surprise Bills ‘Erode Trust’
During THE CITY’s initial investigation, Carecube customers were surprised to receive a bill for an “office visit” or a copay for services they believed were fully covered by their insurance.
Jay Filan, now 66, visited a Bay Ridge location in March of 2021 after his physician tested positive for the virus.
He was surprised when a $100 invoice arrived at his Brooklyn Heights home.
Filan ignored the bill but complained to his local City Council member, Brad Lander, now the city’s comptroller. He said he was pleasantly surprised to learn of the settlement.
“So often you just complain about something and nothing happens and you feel like you’re blowing into the wind,” Filan said. “I’m very thankful to THE CITY and also Brad Lander’s office for being so responsive.”
In a statement, Lander — who initially notified the attorney general of the allegations — said the company’s shady billing tactic “erodes people’s trust in our medical facilities.”
“Carecube exploited vulnerable New Yorkers seeking essential services during a time of crisis,” he said.
New York magazine reported last year that the company was also being investigated by the Department of Justice.
A $10 million class-action lawsuit was also filed against the company in February of 2022. That case is still pending in Kings County Supreme Court, according to court documents.