SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle doctor has agreed to pay nearly $2.9 million to settle state and federal allegations that his clinics ordered unnecessary medical tests to boost his bottom line.
Authorities shuttered Dr. Frank Li’s seven Seattle Pain Clinics and suspended his license in 2016 after saying his failure to monitor prescriptions of powerful opioids could have contributed to more than a dozen deaths.
The settlement announced on May 7 by the Seattle U.S. Attorney’s Office and the state Attorney General’s Office concerned allegations that Li’s companies billed government entities for thousands of medically unnecessary urine drug tests.
“This billing for unnecessary urine tests is a way Dr. Li and his clinics profited on the pain of others,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman said in a news release. “It is appropriate that we return these dollars to the government entities that were defrauded.”
According to the settlement agreement, Li ran not just the pain clinics but also drug-testing labs in Everett and Seattle. Beginning in 2013, he instituted a policy that resulted in nearly all patients undergoing a full urine drug test every time they saw a provider— far more often than state standards called for.
Li did not admit liability, but he agreed to pay back $2.85 million over five years, most of it to Medicare and Medicaid.
An attorney for Li, Mike McKay, told The Seattle Times his client believed the tests were necessary.
“The patient population Dr. Li saw was high-risk and frequent drug screens were medically necessary,” McKay said.
The settlement is a civil resolution unrelated to any criminal investigation or any action by state health regulators, the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted.