LOCAL NEWS

Feds decline to intervene in BNSF Asbestos Case alleging clinic fraud

by Aaron Bolton
Montana Public Radio

 

The federal government has declined to intervene in a lawsuit about a Libby asbestos clinic. The lawsuit alleges that the clinic committed fraud by accessing federal funding for unnecessary health screenings and treatments.

BNSF Railway filed its complaint in U.S. District Court in 2019, alleging that the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) committed fraud by invoicing federal agencies for unnecessary health screenings. BNSF also alleged CARD misdiagnosed patients with asbestos-related diseases and used federal funds to treat them, a possible violation of the False Claims Act.

BNSF shared its allegations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The case remained sealed until the U.S. Justice Department last week decided not to intervene in the case.

In a letter explaining its decision, the department said it was not making a statement on the merits of the case and could still intervene at a later date. The justice department said it would also need to sign-off on any settlement between CARD and BNSF.

In a statement, CARD denies all allegations of fraud and alleges that BNSF is using the case in an effort to undermine the clinic after the Montana Supreme Court last year found that BNSF was partially liable for harm caused by the asbestos it transported out of Libby.

 

This story was originally

published Feb. 23, 2021, by Montana Public Radio.

Find more Montana news at www.mtpr.org

CARD Clinic of Libby issues response to recent declination of BNSF lawsuit by U.S. Justice Court

Statement issued in response to recent U.S. Justice Department letter of declination issued on

Friday, February 19, 2021

 

 

CARD Clinic – Libby, MT.
Monday, February 22

 

The Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) is a small medical clinic in Libby, Montana, dedicated to serving past and present members of the Libby community who have been exposed to Libby Amphibole Asbestos. CARD screens patients to determine if their health has been affected by Libby Amphibole Asbestos exposure.

Since 2011, CARD has conducted over 7,000 asbestos health screenings and over 3,500 lung cancer screenings. CARD’s important work is funded largely by federal grants administered by the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

After BNSF filed this lawsuit against CARD in 2019 alleging that CARD had been committing Medicare fraud, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Service investigated the claims asserted by BNSF in its lawsuit.

CARD cooperated fully with the Office of the Inspector General in the investigation, and ATSDR and CDC were made aware of the investigation. After investigating the claims, the Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice decided not to pursue any claims against CARD.

Meanwhile, ATSDR and CDC renewed CARD’s screening grant. Because the United States government has refused to prosecute BNSF’s claims against CARD, BNSF is now left to try to prosecute this lawsuit on its own.

CARD notes that BNSF filed this lawsuit after the Asbestos Claims Court, later affirmed by the Montana Supreme Court, ruled that BNSF was strictly liable for the harm it caused to persons affected by asbestos exposure.

CARD has been subjected to attacks by large corporate interests in the past, when WR Grace made similar claims against CARD, attempting to undermine CARD’s work in treating the individuals exposed in Libby.

Like WR Grace tried in the past, BNSF is using this lawsuit to try to prevent CARD from screening and treating individuals exposed in Libby for asbestos-related diseases. CARD will face these unfounded claims head-on and looks forward to defending the care it provides to the Libby community in federal district court.

CARD will simultaneously remain focused on continuing to serve its patients and their community.

For more information please contact Tracy McNew, LPN, MPA, Administrative Director, at 406-293-9274 or by email Tracy@libbyasbestos.org.

Learn more about the Center for Asbestos Related Disease by visiting libbyasbestos.org.

2021 Honors Symposium

To Examine Pandemics

Submitted by FVCC

 

Flathead Valley Community College’s 2021 Honors Symposium opens Wednesday, March 10 and will feature two thought-provoking lectures that will address this year’s theme of “Pandemics: How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?”

Free and open to the public, the lectures will be conducted via Zoom. Links to listen to the live lectures are available at fvcc.edu/honors-symposium.

“This year’s Honors Symposium features distinguished scholars from our Montana community who are striving to promote an understanding of the current global coronavirus pandemic, as well as offer a glance at pandemics in a historical context,” said event organizer Dr. Gerda Reeb.

Dr. Marshall Bloom, M.D., will kick off this year’s symposium with his lecture, “Pandemics: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow?” on Wednesday, March 10 at 6 p.m.

He will offer an overview of other emerging infectious diseases, why they emerge and how they can transform into true pandemics. He will also describe several recent pandemics and some of the lessons that should have been learned.

Dr. Bloom is an internationally recognized expert on the pathogenesis of tick-borne flaviviruses, persistent infections and parvoviruses. He serves as chief of the biology of vector-borne viruses in the Laboratory of Virology and is the associate director for scientific management at Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton.

The second and final lecture in this year’s Honors Symposium features Dr. Ruth Wrightsman, Ph.D., presenting “The COVID-19 Pandemic: The Virus, the Vaccines and the Variants” on Tuesday, March 16 at 12 p.m.

She will discuss the biology of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, how the COVID-19 vaccines work, and the race between vaccination and the emergence of genetic variants.

Dr. Wrightsman spent 25 years in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at UC-Irvine studying the immunology of the protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi. She has been a community college educator for over 30 years and has taught a range of biology courses, including general biology, microbiology, genetics, and cellular and molecular biology.

 

For more
information and Zoom links, visit www.fvcc.edu/honors-symposium
or contact Reeb at
(406)756-3889.