TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Medicare recipients are tired of being bombarded with unwanted shipments of COVID-19 test kits. And they’re furious their Medicare keeps paying – even after they ask that the claims be denied.
Some say they’ve received as many as 80 boxes of test kits. The kits appear to be shipped from various addresses around the country. They sometimes include phone numbers for companies or labs but recipients say they can’t reach anyone to talk to and sometimes the numbers are disconnected.
Robbie Baxley’s elderly mother has received more than 50 COVID-19 test kits, and despite pleas to stop the shipments, Medicare keeps paying for the unordered tests, about $94 a shipment, sometimes more depending on the number of kits in each shipment.
“It’s just a total waste, a total waste,” he said.
One of the recent shipments listed what appears to be a local company, Sun Health, and an address in Hudson. Investigator Shannon Behnken went to the address and found no mention of Sun Health. The front door listed Progressive Supplies Stat. LLC.
We tried to go in to ask questions. A sign on the front door read, Open, 9-5. However, when we opened the door we found it blocked by large metal shelving. We saw a familiar-looking COVID test on the bottom shelf.
Hearing voices, we went to another door. We could hear music inside but no one came out to answer questions. A worker unloading a nearby truck said they weren’t allowed to talk and knew nothing about unwanted COVID tests.
That night, we received an email from someone who identified themselves as the company’s owner, saying, in part:
“We are writing to inform you that Progressive Supplies Stat is a shipping and fulfillment center that serves its customers by providing packing and shipment services (similar to USPS, UPS, and Fedex.) We do not bill Medicare and never received a payment from Medicare for COVID-19 kits or any other product.”
We emailed follow-up questions, but have not heard back yet.
Here’s what we found online: The company’s website says nothing about a shipping center, rather that it offers orthopedic support products and includes testimonials from happy customers.
Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau has an “alert” on the company and includes complaints from consumers about COVID test shipments, such as, “I need for this company to stop sending covid 19 test. My dad have enough for an army. These companies will not answer their phone to be able to speak to someone …. please stop sending these tests.”
The BBB lists the company’s response as: “We have already sent out returned labels for all complaints.”
Florida public records have no listing for Sun Health, but the Better Business Bureau lists Sun Health as an alternate business name for Progressive Supplies Stat, LLC.
Better Call Behnken responded to that e-mail from the company owner asking about any connection between the two business names. So far, we haven’t heard back.
Federal investigators are looking into unwanted shipments of COVID-19 tests and following the paper trail to find out who is behind a recent influx of unordered shipments around the country. Florida, because of its population of older Americans on Medicare, has a particularly robust number of these complaints.
Federal authorities say COVID-19 fraud, including COVID testing fraud is rapidly evolving. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has posted a webpage to help encourage people to report suspected COVID fraud. That page is frequently updated because new info is constantly coming in.
The State of Florida is also concerned with COVID testing scams.
Complaints about fraudulent activity related to COVID-19 testing can be reported to the State of Florida Attorney General at MyFloridaLegal.com or call 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.
The HHS-OIG Hotline: visit TIPS.HHS.GOV or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS.
HHS-OIG’s COVID-19 Special Fraud Alert, with more information on COVID-19-related schemes: Fraud Alert: COVID-19 Scams | Office of Inspector General | Government Oversight | U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (hhs.gov)