Mass Live


December 16, 2019

NORTHAMPTON – Officials for Cooley Dickinson Hospital have agreed to pay $11,332 to settle a federal court allegation accusing them of running unnecessary tests to detect tick-borne diseases and billing Medicare and Medicaid for the costs.

Over a period of three years – between 2014 and 2017 – the hospital is accused of creating a tick-borne disease test panel which physicians and nurse practitioners could use to automatically order a series of tests for different diseases associated with tick bites, said Christina DiLorio-Sterling, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.

The panel included tests carried by ticks that were not likely to be present in the geographic area where the patient was bitten and were not medically-indicated by the patient’s symptoms. However the hospital submitted claims saying the tests were medically necessary, she said.

The issue was reported under a whistleblower suit brought by a patient, Dr. Morris Leibowitz. Under federal law, private individuals can sue on behalf of the government for false claims and can share in any recovery. Leibowitz will receive 21 percent of the settlement, she said.

“This settlement is another reminder of how whistleblowers can help the government identify improper billing practices among health care providers,” Lelling said in a written statement about the settlement.