Months after an ABC15 report on viewers who were billed after getting the COVID-19 vaccine at a pop up event in Glendale, some families say they have received pre-collection notices for payments.
In March 2021, a company called SIPMD was in charge of administering thousands of vaccines as part in a pop-up event at Glendale Community College that was sponsored by Maricopa County Public Health.
Months after our first story, some viewers have reached out again after receiving pre-collection notices.
After our first report over the summer, a lawyer for the company told us the bills were sent in error.
“We understand the vaccine was supposed to be free of patient responsibility,” said Jason Rapp, who received a vaccine at the pop-up event.
Rapp and his wife, Christina, each received a bill from the drive-thru appointments for charges that included a telephone call, and a new patient office visit. After ignoring the first bills, assuming they were sent in error, the couple received bills just before Christmas again.
“It’s been a very frustrating experience, and we’re disappointed that we’re still getting bills,” Rapp said.
The bills first asked to send payments to MD24 House Call, and the second bill was from 360 AZ Doc.
MD24 House call is no longer an active business in the state’s database. 360 AZ Doc and SIPDMD, from the vaccine clinics, all have a person in common — a man by the name of Dr. Linh Nguyen.
Four months ago, Nguyen was charged with health care fraud. The federal indictment says Nguyen operated his practice under multiple corporate names — including Global MD Network, LLC, MD24 House Call, Inc. now known as Arizona Doctors, LLC.
Nguyen also is associated with SIPMD.
The federal indictment alleges, for over a decade, Nguyen engaged in health care fraud by submitting false claims to health care insurance programs for medical services.
“During the time frame of the indictment, Dr. Nguyen, through his medical practice, is alleged to have billed Medicare approximately $50 million and received approximately $33 million in Medicare funds,” a press release in October stated.
Some the billing dates listed in the court documents match dates from the GCC vaccine events in March held by SIPMD.
The indictment goes on to say that, “At times, Nguyen, through his companies, fraudulently billed E/M codes, such as office visits and Telehealth visits, when the only legitimate services rendered were Covid vaccinations.”
The documents say that Nguyen had been audited on a number of occasions that his billing practices were not allowed, “At times, as part of the concealment of his raid, Nguyen employed staff from Vietnam to sign records, such as encounter forms and charge slips,” part of the document read. “Nguyen called his staff in Vietnam his ‘secret weapon.’”
For Rapp, he wants someone to step in so he stops receiving bills. “[It's] very surprising to us that nothing has been done to stop this company, even more surprising that they’re still conducting vaccinations in Maricopa County,” he said.
SIPMD advertises on their website that they hold vaccinations on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
SIPMD and 360 AZ Doc don’t just do vaccines, they also do house medical visits, tele-health appointments, and they advertise online that they work with the elderly population.
ABC15 reached out to a lawyer for SIPMD who said over the summer that bills were sent in error.
In an email, Tom Moring said, “As I believe that I mentioned to you back in the summer, we took immediate steps to address the billing inaccuracies that were brought to our attention. For your review, I have attached a copy of the letter that is a sample of the one sent to patients to notify them of the erroneous billings that we believe they may have received. It was our intention through that to notify them that there was an error, that we were taking steps to address the error, and that we were notifying them that there was no money owed. Our hope was that this would provide some peace of mind for those patients.”
As for Nguyen’s case in federal court, it is expected to go to trial early next year.
SIPMD’s lawyer said Dr. Nguyen disputes the allegations made in the indictment. Public record searches show that the defense for Nguyen has not filed anything recent in federal court, and that they have received over 30,000 pages of discovery from the federal government.
According to the CDC, they have information warning about scams and how consumers are not to be charged.
"If anyone asks you to pay for access to a COVID-19 vaccine, you can bet it’s a scam. Don’t share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising access to a vaccine for an extra fee."
COVID-19 vaccination providers cannot:
- Charge you for a vaccine
- Charge you directly for any administration fees, copays, or coinsurance
- Deny vaccination to anyone who does not have health insurance coverage, is underinsured, or is out of network
- Charge an office visit or other fee to the recipient if the only service provided is a COVID-19 vaccination
- Require additional services in order for a person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine; however, additional healthcare services can be provided at the same time and billed as appropriate
COVID-19 vaccination providers can:
- Seek appropriate reimbursement from the recipient’s plan or program (e.g., private health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid) for a vaccine administration fee
- Seek appropriate reimbursement for uninsured vaccine recipients from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s COVID-19 Uninsured Program."
- However, providers cannot charge the vaccine recipient the balance of the bill.
FULL STATEMENT FROM LAWYER FOR SIPMD ON FEDERAL INDICTMENT:
“Dr. Nguyen disputes the allegations made in the indictment. Moreover, the company made changes to billing practices to reflect changes disseminated by the US Government. Specifically, on April 28 the Federal government issued new and updated guidance that there was to be no billing to patient for visits where COVID-19 vaccines were provided. Following this guidance, we announced to providers that no visit charges were to be coded. We then had the company review several charges and we identified those where the patients were vaccinated and were also billed for office visits for related services. We then corrected those claims we were aware of, and continued efforts to find any additional changes falling in to that category,” said Moring.