Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times
A Brooklyn-based physicians group is facing a class-action lawsuit accusing it of charging hundreds of dollars for coronavirus tests to New Yorkers who thought they were getting them for free.
The lawsuit, filed last week by two Bronx residents, Sabine Schumacher and Linda Cunningham, seeks more than $10 million in damages for the couple and for any New Yorkers who say they were overcharged by the company, CareCube. The complaint claims CareCube illegally charged the couple $450 for two tests taken last June.
“It’s sad that companies like CareCube are exploiting people during a global pandemic just to make a quick buck, especially in a hard-hit area like New York City,” Ms. Cunningham said in a statement.
CareCube, which has 20 testing sites citywide, has faced a growing number of reports that it overcharged customers who believed their tests would be free. Last month, Letitia James, the New York attorney general, announced that she had opened an investigation into CareCube in response to complaints received by her office and by other New York City leaders.
“We cannot create harmful financial barriers that keep our communities from seeking testing,” Ms. James said at the time. “CareCube and all Covid-19 test providers have a responsibility to be accurate and transparent in their billing process.”
From as early as August 2020 until at least January 2021, the lawsuit says, CareCube’s website explicitly stated that costs for the company’s virus tests would be covered by most health insurers. After that, the lawsuit says, the company’s website continued to note that insurers were obligated to cover the cost of virus tests with no cost to the patient, implying that insured customers would not be charged.
Instead, the lawsuit claims, CareCube billed its customers for doctor consultations that the company said were part of its virus testing procedure, but did not actually provide.
In some instances, the lawsuit states, customers were told by their health insurers that their insurer had already paid CareCube for a test, but the customers were billed anyway.
“Carecube adamantly denies the allegations in this complaint and will defend this action vigorously in court,” the company said in an email.
Dozens of customers have reported getting surprise bills from CareCube since last year. New Yorkers told outlets such as The City and New York Magazine that they were charged more than $100 after getting tested at CareCube, and many took to sites such as Reddit and the Better Business Bureau to warn people away from getting tests there.
Former CareCube employees told New York Magazine that the company often relied on complicated loopholes to charge both insurers and customers for tests.
Federal laws passed in March 2020 state that insurers are required to cover virus tests at no cost to the patient, including tests administered out-of-network. But patients nationwide have reported being hit with unexpected bills for virus tests that have ranged from a few dollars to thousands.
Ms. Cunningham said that she and her partner were worried that CareCube’s billing practices would especially hurt low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford to pay hundreds of dollars to get tested.
“I hope that by standing up to CareCube, all of their other customers who got scammed to pay hundreds of dollars for fake doctor consultations for Covid tests get their money back,” she said.
Susan Campbell Beachy contributed research.