LabCorp Denies Blood Test for Heart Attack Patient Due to $7 Debt

By Donna Smith

OK, if this wasn’t personal enough just yet for me, it just got a whole lot more so. And if you think for one instant that in this nation at this point in history and with this popularly elected President and Democratic Congress you will be treated for a heart attack simply because you might die if you are not treated, think again. And if you think having insurance helps, think some more.

On Friday, my husband was denied a blood test because a computer record from some distant time past and some other state showed he had a $7 balance with LabCorp. I am not making this up.

My husband had a heart attack this week. He woke up one morning sweating profusely and with a heart rate dropping. I watched his color turn first ruddy then ashen, and then he felt as though he was going to pass out. He would not allow me to call 911 as he slowly began to feel sick to his stomach and he believed his symptoms were digestive rather than cardiac.

We have learned over the years to wait to seek care – it is expensive to do otherwise and dooms us to the endless loop of bills and collection notices and more damage to our already badly bruised credit rating. So we always wait to seek care until there seems to be no other option. We are not alone. Millions of Americans do the same. We do not want to use the emergency rooms or doctors’ offices. We don’t want anything to do with the whole mess.

We moved to Maryland in March, but have fought Humana insurance and Medicare transfer since then to even make sure my husband can get any care at all. And, by God, we were paying the premiums the whole time the insurance folks hemmed and hawed and stalled. It took three months to get that all straightened out, during which time they repeated over and over, “we’re not denying treatment,” and technically I suppose they weren’t as they want us all just to get out our checkbooks and debit cards and pay up. And in the meantime, my husband waited for any doctors’ appointment and got meds by calling back to Chicago to get prescriptions refilled.

My husband is a cardiac patient and a vascular patient with a complicated medical history and needs follow-up care on a regular basis. He is a responsible guy who has always maintained his insurance coverage and who avoids seeking care unless it is needed. He does not seek to overuse or abuse the system. To stay relatively healthy, he needs regular check-ups and decent intervention when necessary.

But, I insisted my husband follow up in the way we all are told is more sensible and cost effective. He went to a primary care doc on Wednesday who shuffled him off to a cardiologist after a visit barely long enough to be billed as an “extended, new patient visit.” An EKG showed the grim reality. “Abnormal, negative T-waves. Inferior infarct.”

Blood work was ordered in advance of the cardiologist visit set for Friday. He was to fast overnight, see the cardiologist and then get his blood drawn. Seems to be progressing, eh?

Well, only until he sat down in the LabCorp office to get his blood drawn. The LabCorp employee typed in my husband’s Social Security Number, and promptly told him he could not have his blood drawn or have his test administered until he cleared up his old bill with LabCorp. The bill? $7. That’s right — $7.

And my husband has been covered by insurance for many years. But now he sat – post myocardial infarction or heart attack – being told by a laboratory employee that he would be denied care due to an unpaid $7 bill. He did not have $7 with him. He was fasting. He tried to explain. They did not budge. They did call the supervisor. She confirmed and stood her ground for LabCorp. No test for Larry Smith. He owes $7.

David King, the CEO of LabCorp, made $8.2 million in 2008. He’s one of the people and LabCorp is one of the companies President Obama is celebrating who will help transform our nation’s healthcare system. Indeed. And LabCorp’s political participation committee donated funds to several candidates in 2008, including Sen. Max Baucus and Sen. Charles Grassley, both of the Senate Finance Committee that is working on the nation’s healthcare reform.

Lest we think the insurance giants are the only people hurting, harming and killing Americans like my husband as they shore up their profits, follow the money in this story alone. One doctor’s office, another doctor’s office, one insurance company and finally a lab – all worked together to make what they could individually off my husband and then ultimately denied his care for $7. Everybody got their bite of the apple and then left him in the dust as they moved on to the next source of revenue, oops, I mean the next patient.

Where do we stand today? Still no blood work drawn. Waiting for next week to see what we can do to set the tests and exams the cardiologist ordered before she got busy with another patient. Did my husband return to the doctor’s office to tell them what happened and ask for their help? Yes. And he said not one person, not one, would reach into their pockets and give him the $7 or pick up the phone and try to help him resolve this. So what was his life worth? $7.

We’ll get the tests done somehow. But the point is, we’ll have to fight for it. And his heart will be stressed more and so on and so on and so on. This is the travesty of healthcare in this nation. And this Congress and this President are so damned concerned with their own political futures they cannot even see this reality for the rest of us. I am so angry.

And don’t tell me that a single payer – publicly funded and privately delivered system — wouldn’t stop heart attack patients from being denied care due to old debts of $7. It’s the only system that could stop that sort of abuse.

The LabCorp supervisor who denied Larry Smith’s test on Friday, June 26, in Elkridge, Maryland, is named Shirley Smith (no relation to Larry) at LabCorp’s Maryland office: 410-365-1264. LabCorp’s customer service line for billing can be reached at: 1-800-845-6167.


  1. Michael Eckert on July 1, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Apparently we can’t get medical attention until the doctors have rifled through our pockets.

  2. Joe on July 1, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I’m at a loss for words. If things are this bad not only do we need health care reform we also need moral reform.

  3. Sid Pevear on July 2, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    LabCorp are bloodsuckers! I had a blood test done for HCV viral load done by them. They did not bill the insurance in a timely fashion. I dropped the insurance company I had and went with another. In the interim LabCorp decided, after I left, to bill this test 3 months after the test. Needless to say the insurance denied the claim as being to late so they tried to make me pay. I said no I will not pay for your negligence. I still have that bill on my credit with a letter attached from me explaining why I refuse to pay them. It has not affected my credit. These people are a prime example of how screwed up medical coverage is in this country!

  4. Cata on July 2, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    i just read my father this story. i have lupus and he has diabtes, i hope we won’t come to this same kind of fate if either of us has a heart attack.

    this is so infuriating because not only is nothing fixed presently but nothing will because lining their own pockets is better than stopping the needless killing of lives. damn it.

  5. Compassionate phlebotomist on July 9, 2009 at 7:30 am

    We are employees of Labcorp and we appologize for your inconvience, and we truly hate that we are now forced to turn patients away for non payment. Apparently we are supposed to have no heart or compassion for our patients. I assure you that the phlebotomist are only doing this because they are forced to or find another job, which as you know in today’s economy is not an easy task. Thank you for your research on Dave King, this was shocking considering they cut our raises in half. But please believe that your phlebotomist do care about their patients, but we can’t afford to walk off our jobs, we would if we made as much as Dave!!!!!!

  6. loumtx on September 9, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    I have UHC insurance and I went to a new center yesterday and they collected the labs. They have my group and ID number and I got a call from LabCorp today that they will not do the labs without my social security number. I have had my identity stolen and medical establishments were the only places that
    have the number. Maybe Dave and the boys need a new set of wheels so they are going to charge it to me.

    Yes we need reform from crap like this. They can send it to another lab for all I care. If we stop using these companies they will go out of business. Just say NO!

  7. Rita on September 17, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    This is TRUE. It happened to my husband and my sister. My sisters bill was 11.00! From another state to boot and she had insurance and never received a bill for it. My husband was 23.00 dollars and he choose to dispute it. That is the amount he was disputing from the last tests that were run on him.
    I work in a doctors office and MANY of our patients are medicaid and will come back to our office due to LAB CORP refusing to draw their blood because of PENNIES. We tell them to go use the hospitals. I mean it probably goes through lab corp anyway around but at least they will get the blood drawn then at a hospital.
    In our office we do a ton of urine drug screens. We no longer use LAB CORP to run them through. We use AMERTOX. The AMERTOX rep told us point blank that their screens are 500.00 dollars less. They discount customers 100 percent if they can not afford the bill. LAB CORP? You can’t even set up payment arrangements! I felt awful for a patient we did a drug screen on and it cost her over 700.00. Her insurance wouldn’t cover it, said it wasn’t a necessary test. To our office it is when it is chronic pain we deal with and the patients takes narcotics. We have a bad drug problem in this country and we are doing the responsable thing by drug testing to make sure the patient IS taking the medication as prescribed AND NOT SELLING IT ON THE STREETS. This poor woman lost getting a home due to LAB CORP and that 700.00 dollar bill they would not accept payments on. It went on her credit rating.

    LAB CORP is the WORST company in the world. I wish there was other labs out there, but LAB CORP OF AMERICA reins in this country.

    This company needs buck down and step or two. Or should I say SHUT DOWN?

  8. sales employee on November 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Welcome to Lab Corp I was offered a job to work for them after they bought my company but I told them no thank you. You should have seen the salary they offered me I show people and all they can say are you stupid or what. All I can say is I only work for companies that work with patients and the Md’s to provide good quality low costs testing.Needless to say I kept my client base with me and it costing Lab Corp a pretty penny everytime one of MY patients comes to my lab to get a blood drawn and no we don’t ask for prepayment. I’m sure as we grow this company Lab Corp will strike out its ugly fangs and offer a huge amount of money to buy it because that is the only way it can grow.

  9. MaryJane on July 15, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Took my child to the doctor on Monday, referred to Labcorp for test. They denied doing the test today, due to a past due balance they claim is on our account from some previous years ago. I did not have the $ 18 dollars to pay today. Our new insurance BCBS covers 100% of lab, yet they insisted that unless I pay the balance he could not have his blood drawn. I asked for the manager to have the restriction waived since this visit is covered 100% but got the run around, manager not there, no none has a number for a director. I don’t understand how some billing person or admin can make such denial against a person’s health condition. We need to file a class action suit against this Labcorp.

  10. olta on September 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I am a home health rn and i have to deal with labcorp almost all the time.I couldnt believe that they turned down my patients blood sample that i had collected just because there was the policy number of the insurance missing.All the other information was there,ssn,adress,PCP,doctors orders,age,DOB,etc….and they turned it down just because i asked them where should i turn this in?one day before they just told me put it at the blue box…..the next day all of the sudden the other employee just turned down my patients blood sample….And here i am …with the blood samples in my car,waiting to be run STAT…in a florida temperature of 91…but this is not enough…..i got back in the car and told my new colleague that i was training to go back in and turn the samples….she did….they accepted them without no problem…….I did not understand what the reason was for the first time to be denied?..The labcorp employee was too busy Facebooking and when i went in and asked her where to put my samples,apparently i disturbed her so she chose to deny them….WHAT A SHAME….PEOPLE LIKE THE ONES THAT WORK AT LABCORP ARE A SHAME AND DISGRACE FOR THE HEALTHCARE…..YOU CANNOT PLAY WITH SOMEONES LIFE…YOU CANNOT….EVEN GOD DOESNT!!!……..SHAME ON YOU……

  11. wanda on June 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    i use to work for labcorp quit in febuary. her story is correct they are money hungry company and i had to turn a pt away for owing a dollar. I’m not in agreement with this. its poor pt care. use sonora quest.

  12. ruth on September 24, 2013 at 1:25 am

    omg — they just sent me a bill 156.88 — I am not giving any of my info to them. I will send it to the ins. co. why would they want the bill back to see my info — ss, date of birth, etc. I will send it in myself — why r they still in business?

  13. Cynthia Myers on April 9, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    I believe every word you say because it happened to me too. They also called the supervisor and i was told its their policy if there is a balance they are not allowed to do the bloodwork. If i was kn medicaid i would get it free . I now have insurance but it doesnt matter. I had my 25.00 copay but sorry! The amount in question has been in dispute since last june. It is hard to believe that this could happen but it very ill but my new insurance only has one in network labso now im stuck. I dont have 288.00 so i guess i wil judt die because the real truth is noone cares. The system sucks unless youre on medicaid and then you can spend your money on other things like tatoos and cigarettes and drugs.