Test Trouble: South Florida woman gets billed despite signing up for ‘free’ allergy testing

(WSVN) - A South Florida woman thought she was taking part in free allergy testing. Imagine her shock when she later got a bill for thousands of dollars. 7’s Brian Entin has more on this “Test Trouble.”

When she saw the online ad for allergy testing, Elizabeth Perez thought it sounded like a great deal.

Elizabeth Perez, had allergy testing: “They were advertising that it was all going to be free, and that we had to basically provide our information.”

Atlanta-based Primera Medical Group was recruiting patients for testing in 2016. Elizabeth said she and others went to a Broward hotel, where lab techs drew blood and did skin tests for allergies.

Elizabeth Perez: “They were going to send my lab results in the mail, which I don’t remember getting in the mail. The actual bloodwork, which was the medical screening part, I never got.”

What Elizabeth did get was a notice from her insurance company that said it was being billed thousands of dollars by an out-of-network lab.

Elizabeth Perez: “And then there’s all these codes, and I’m like, ‘What is all this?'”

She went online to research Primera and was shocked by what she saw.

Elizabeth Perez: “The first thing that popped up on the news was that they had defrauded various insurance companies out of millions of dollars.”

An Atlanta news report showed the FBI raiding Primera Medical Group’s offices in February 2017.

The company’s executive officers later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to committing healthcare fraud.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Georgia said the company submitted some 4,500 fraudulent claims for allergy tests, adding up to more than $8.5 million in insurance payments.

Elizabeth Perez: “I trusted these people. I gave them my information, and now what?”

Elizabeth’s insurance company paid a portion of the charges but denied a $2,600 claim from a lab that ran her tests for Primera.

She called the lab to explain what she had been told about the testing.

Elizabeth Perez: “When I went there, it was under the pretense that this was all going to be done free, that my insurance wasn’t going to be billed, and she said, ‘Unfortunately, I’m sorry, but there is nothing that I can do.'”

She said the lab threatened to turn her bill over to collections if she didn’t pay up.

Elizabeth Perez: “I felt like, ‘How can this happen to me?’ Because these people may or may not come after me.”

After 7News called the lab, they told us they had “reviewed Ms. Elizabeth Perez’s hardship claim” and that her “debt has been discharged.”

Elizabeth Perez: “I appreciate it. Now, that’s one less thing I have to worry about, and I can move on with my life.”

Elizabeth said she’ll do more research the next time a deal sounds too good to be true.

Primera’s corporate officers are set to be sentenced in federal court in Atlanta next month.

The maximum prison sentence for insurance fraud is 10 years.

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