Connecticut physician charged for 'super COVID tests,' patients say

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Patients are questioning the testing and billing practices of a Connecticut physician who estimates he has tested about 60,000 patients for COVID-19, according to The New York Times

Eleven patients contend Steven Murphy, MD, used a drive-through COVID-19 testing site he ran in Bedford, N.Y., and others nearby to run unnecessary tests to get higher reimbursement from health insurers, according to the report. 

Billing documents reviewed by The Times revealed that Dr. Murphy did not just test patients for COVID-19 at the drive-through sites. He routinely billed health plans for a large panel test for at least 20 pathogens. In one example cited by The Times, Medicare paid $583 for a patient's drive-through test due in part to the large panel test. Medicare typically pays between $51.31 and $100 for a COVID-19 test. 

Dr. Murphy has defended his billing practices and said the larger panel test was reserved for symptomatic patients or those who needed their results quickly. Asymptomatic patients told The Times they had received the more expensive test. 

When one patient, Rebecca Sussman, inquired about her large bill, Dr. Murphy's staff described that larger panel test as "a super Covid test." 

"Dr. Murphy is a very thorough doctor," a staff member wrote in an email to Ms. Sussman, adding that patients at the drive-through sites are "tested not only for Covid but also for any other virus that may be active," according to The Times

Patients claim Dr. Murphy also charged their insurers hundreds of dollars for short phone calls to deliver the test results. One patient said her insurer was charged $340 for a 30-second phone call, according to the report. 

Dr. Murphy filed a lawsuit against Cigna Nov. 6, alleging the health insurer wrongfully refused to pay for members' COVID-19 testing. He claims Cigna told 4,400 members that he offers fraudulent COVID-19 testing sites and they would need to pay out of pocket if they were tested there. 

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