Attorney General James Secures More Than $1 Million from Northwell Health for Deceptively Advertising COVID-19 Testing Sites

Northwell Health Has Refunded More Than 2,000 New Yorkers Approximately $400,000 and Will Pay $650,000 in Penalties for Wrongfully Charging Patients

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that her office secured $650,000 in penalties and more than $400,000 in refunds from Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care network, for misleading New Yorkers seeking COVID-19 testing during the height of the pandemic. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Northwell Health deceptively advertised three of its emergency departments in New York City and on Long Island as COVID-19 testing sites where New Yorkers could simply get a COVID-19 test, but then billed patients for emergency room visits. As a result of today’s agreement, Northwell Health has issued over $400,000 in refunds to 2,048 patients, must pay a $650,000 penalty, and must notify future patients seeking COVID-19 testing at emergency rooms that they will be billed for emergency department charges.

“During a time of great stress at the height of the pandemic, Northwell Health caused more worry and frustration for New Yorkers who were sent emergency room bills for simply taking a COVID-19 test,” said Attorney General James. “Today we are putting money back in New Yorkers’ pockets after Northwell Health misled them. New York patients should not get surprise fees, and I encourage anyone who thinks they’ve been taken advantage of through deceptive advertising to file a complaint with my office.”

The OAG launched an investigation into Northwell Health following complaints from New Yorkers that they were receiving bills for emergency department visits after they took a COVID-19 test. The OAG investigation found that three Northwell Health locations with emergency departments, Lenox Hill Hospital, Lenox Health Greenwich, and Huntington Hospital, posted signs between March 2020 and March 2021 advertising emergency departments as COVID-19 testing locations. Despite only receiving a COVID-19 test, hundreds of individuals who visited one of these three locations were billed standard emergency room charges. The OAG found that even patients who took a COVID-19 test at Huntington Hospital’s drive-through location were billed for emergency room visits. 

While state and federal laws prohibited health plans from charging any type of cost sharing for COVID-19 tests and related services, OAG found that Northwell Health collected $81,761.46 in out-of-pocket payments from 559 New Yorkers for COVID-19 tests and related services received at emergency departments. Other New Yorkers who visited the ER for other reasons were also charged for COVID-19 tests that were administered.

As a result of OAG’s investigation and agreement, Northwell Health issued $400,164.29 in refunds to 2,048 patients. In addition, Northwell Health must pay $650,000 in penalties to the state.

If a patient believes they have been a victim of misleading billing practices, they should contact the OAG Health Care Bureau online or call 1-800-428-9071. 

This investigation and settlement were co-led by former Assistant Attorney General Jason Meizlish of the Consumer Frauds & Protection Bureau under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia and Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine, and Deputy Bureau Chief Leslieann Cachola of the Health Care Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Darsana Srinivasan. Data Scientist Anushua Choudhury and Acting Deputy Director Gautam Sisodia of the Research and Analytics Department and Assistant Attorney General Christian Reigstad of the Consumer Frauds & Protection Bureau also assisted in this matter. The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo. The Health Care Bureau is part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. Both divisions are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.