Alere Inc. under investigation for possible Medicare billing fraud

The Waltham Massachusetts based diagnostic-testing company Alere Inc. is under investigation by Federal investigators who are looking forΠinformation about government-billing practices.The latest investigation Alere concerns U.S. government insurance programs, including Medicare for the elderly, Medicaid for the poor and Tricare for the military, Alere said in a statement. The July 1 subpoena to Alere Toxicology Services Inc. seeks records dating back to 2010 related to patient samples tested at the pain management laboratory in Austin, Texas. The Journal reported that the Justice Department was interested in whether Alere might have covered co-payments for patients in those programs, which is illegal.

The Justice Department’s criminal-fraud section sent Alere a subpoena recently seeking patient-billing records, according to people familiar with the matter. It asked for information about Alere’s efforts to collect copayments from patients, as well as forms submitted on their behalf to government programs such as Medicare. Federal law bars health-care companies from covering the payments for patients insured by government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The Justice Department also is investigating whether Alere made payments or delivered items of value to doctors who order the tests, the people said. The government considers such forms of assistance to be illegal kickbacks.

Alere’s toxicology unit does drug-testing for employers and government agencies. Alere specializes in tests for HIV, tuberculosis and the presence of drugs and other toxins. The tests can be administered at the point of care, giving quick results for doctors and first responders.

Alere in February agreed to be acquired by Abbott Laboratories for nearly $5 billion, a transaction that has yet to close.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers.