Oklahoma attorney general investigating urine testing labs

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The Associated Press
AP Writer

(AP) — The Oklahoma attorney general's office is investigating a group of laboratories involved in the state's booming urine testing industry, a newspaper reported Sunday.

While not officially confirmed, documents obtained through an open records request show the agency's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is looking into some urine testing laboratories doing millions of dollars in business with Oklahoma health care providers, The Oklahoman reported (http://bit.ly/29ABFxi ).

Records provided by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state's Medicaid agency, indicate that some laboratories have received nearly $100 million in reimbursements since 2011 for testing the urine of chronic pain patients, recovering addicts and others routinely prescribed narcotics.

With roughly $5 billion in annual expenditures and more than one million "lives covered," OHCA CEO Nico Gomez said he isn't surprised some urine testing laboratories are now being investigated.

"Any time you have that much money in the program, you become a target ... of people who want to try to milk the system," Gomez said.

Will Gattenby, a spokesman for the attorney general, said the agency can't share much information because of "the sensitive nature of the investigation."

"While some testing is an integral part of the practice of medicine, urine lab testing is often ordered without a corresponding benefit to the care and treatment of the patient," Gattenby said in a written statement.

According to industry experts, court records and reports released by the U.S. Department of Justice in recent years, pain management doctors are responsible for ordering most of the expensive urine tests, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars apiece.

Over the past five years, the urine testing industry has exploded in Oklahoma, a trend that has paralleled the state's well-documented struggles with prescription drug abuse, most notably opioid painkillers.

In 2011, urine testing laboratories received $3.7 million from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. By the end of 2014, those same reimbursements had increased to $32 million, up more than 700 percent in just three years, agency records show.


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com