The Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) clinic in Libby, Montana – a town infamously known for asbestos exposure and diseases – is facing controversy due to alleged false asbestos claims. According to the Associated Press, CARD has filed for bankruptcy after a judge fined the clinic nearly $6 million over the false claims.
CARD is a national clinic dedicated to addressing healthcare issues associated with Libby amphibole asbestos. The nonprofit clinic provides treatment and other benefits to people impacted by asbestos exposure caused by Libby mining operations.
Filing for bankruptcy will allow CARD to continue operating while it appeals the judge’s decision and the nearly $6 million fine. The clinic appealed the judgment to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We filed (for bankruptcy) because we want to continue to offer the same services and keep our doors open to pay our employees,” CARD Director Tracy McNew told the Associated Press.
Asbestos in Libby Vermiculite Mine
For the majority of the 20th century, a vermiculite mine owned by W.R. Grace operated in Libby. The mine’s focus was vermiculite ore, but asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral often found near vermiculite.
Asbestos is the only known cause of the rare cancer called mesothelioma, which forms in the lining of the lungs or the abdomen. An estimated 2,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Asbestos can also cause lung cancer, ovarian cancer and a lung tissue scarring disease called asbestosis.
Contaminated vermiculite polluted the city and was a health risk for miners and other workers, along with Libby residents. There have been multiple types of asbestos exposure for people in the town: occupational and environmental.
Libby is a small town of just approximately 3,000 residents. The mine shut down in the 1990s, but the mine’s impact remains today as clean-up efforts continue to remedy the nation’s most infamous incident of environmental asbestos exposure.
Details of Controversy for CARD Clinic
According to a report by PBS, the nonprofit CARD clinic reportedly made 337 false claims of patients eligible for Medicare and other benefits. The report in the Associated Press said victims of asbestos exposure in the Libby area are “eligible for taxpayer-funded services” such as Medicare, travel to medical appointments, housekeeping and disability benefits.
The judgment against CARD is the result of a federal case filed by BNSF Railway in 2019 under the False Claims Act. BNSF is a defendant in hundreds of asbestos-related lawsuits and alleges that CARD submitted claims on behalf of patients without sufficient evidence they had an asbestos disease.
According to the U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said the clinic’s doctor, Brad Black, was self-diagnosed with an asbestos disease and a nurse at CARD allegedly signed for benefits for her mother.
Christensen said the clinic demonstrated “a reckless disregard for proper medical procedure and the legal requirements of government programs.”
According to court documents, CARD has certified more than 3,400 people with asbestos-related diseases – either residents of Libby or people who worked in the town – and the clinic has received more than $20 million in federal funding.
- Montana health clinic must pay nearly $6 million over false asbestos claims, judge rules. PBS. Retrieved from: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/montana-health-clinic-must-pay-nearly-6-million-over-false-asbestos-claims-judge-rules. Accessed: 08/24/2023.
- Montana clinic files for bankruptcy following $6 million judgment over false asbestos claims. Associated Press. Retrieved from: https://apnews.com/article/asbestos-clinic-false-claims-bankruptcy-ce194fae7b5c03ed53bee9a234c29b79. Accessed: 08/24/2023.
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