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CareCube accused of scamming people who got COVID-19 tests

Patients of COVID-19 testing company CareCube are suing the medical clinic, claiming it illegally billed them for tests and for services they said they never received. 

In a class-action lawsuit, plaintiffs Sabine Schumacher and Linda Cunningham accuse CareCube, which has multiple locations across New York City, of exploiting the pandemic "by unlawfully overcharging New Yorkers for COVID-19 tests." CareCube falsely advertised that the tests would be covered by their insurers as required by federal law, the complaint alleges.

"They operated on the general background people have had over the past couple of years that COVID testing is provided free of charge," attorney Ethan Roman of law firm Wittels McInturff Palikovic, which is representing Schumacher and Cunningham, told CBS MoneyWatch.

"CareCube's brazen profiteering has enabled the upstart medical provider to expand from a single location in Brooklyn three years ago to 20 locations throughout the city, but this growth has come at the expense of tens of thousands of New York consumers who have collectively been defrauded into paying millions of dollars for COVID-19 tests," the suit claims.

CareCube has not responded to the suit; it did not reply to a request for comment. 

"Millions" in illicit profits

Lawyers for the plaintiffs accuse CareCube of a two-pronged scheme to illegally profit from the global health crisis brought about by COVID-19. First, the clinic surprised consumers with surprise bills for bogus doctor's visits and consultations that never occurred, the lawsuit alleges. Second, it told patients they would be reimbursed for their up-front testing costs. "

This just never happened," Roman said. "People found that their insurers were getting billed. and they were getting billed on top of that."

Schumacher and Cunningham, who are domestic partners, allege they were each billed $225 for a COVID-19 test result required for travel. At the time, CareCube allegedly told the couple it could not reach their insurers, but that they would be reimbursed.

"Both my partner and I needed COVID tests right away in order to travel. CareCube took advantage of that to cheat us out of $450," Cunningham said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. "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."

They are suing to recover for damages and to force CareCube to disgorge millions of dollars in revenue it is estimated to have "wrongfully taken from New York consumers," attorney Burkett McInturff said.

COVID-19 testing market ripe for fraud

McInturff added that the COVID-19 testing market has been rife with scams since the virus first took hold, with criminals capitalizing on the complexity of medical billing practices to prey on consumers. 

"Whenever markets are shrouded in opacity, it makes it easier for bad actors to take advantage of consumers. It is really easy for companies like CareCube that want to take advantage of people to do so," he said. 

CareCube has already come under investigation for allegedly wrongfully billing patients. In early January, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an investigation over how the company charges customers for both rapid and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 tests. 

"CareCube and all COVID-19 test providers have a responsibility to be accurate and transparent in their billing process," James said in the announcement. She also encouraged New Yorkers who believe they have been overcharged by CareCube to file a complaint with her office. 

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