Customer complaints about ubiomes microbiomaster and billing

  • UBiome has encountered complaints about surprise bills and billing errors for several years.
  • The Federal Trade Commission received 28 complaints about uBiome between July 2017 and March 2019, according to records collected by Business Insider.
  • The complainants state cases of surprise bills as high as $ 3,000 and of bills sent to insurance companies for tests that were not delivered.
  • Ubiome sells tests that sequence the microbiome, which is a selection of bacteria and other microbes that live in our bodies. So far, the company has raised $ 105 million from investors.
  • The company's offices were ridden by the FBI on April 26, and its affiliates and co-directors, Jessica Richman and Zac Apte, have been put on administration leave, the company said Wednesday.
  • Visit the Business Insider website for more stories.

Last year, the FBI called the headquarters of the $ 600 million Silicon Valley healthcare startup uBiome, allegedly part of a questionable billing survey.

Even before the FBI raid, customers had experienced billing issues at startup for more than a year, according to a review of Business Insider complaints. Complaints, obtained according to a request for freedom of information law, have not been reported previously.

UBiome began as a citizen science project and attempted to create a large public database on the microbiome, the rich variety of bacteria that thrive in our bodies and seems to affect everything from mood to risk for certain diseases.

However, in recent years, the company has increased its profile, increased $ 1[ads1]05 million from investors, gathers thousands of samples, publishes scientific research and major brand inkjet partnerships, such as L & # 39; Oréal.

In April, the FBI rallied ubiome headquarters. On the heels of the raid, the company set cofounders and co-CEOs Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte on administrative leave. John Rakow, the company's general counsel, acts as temporary CEO.

Complaints reviewed by Business Insider show that uBiome customers experienced billing issues for more than a year before the FBI raid. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 28 complaints about start-up between July 2017 and March 2019, according to records obtained by Business Insider.

Read more: Microbiome testing company uBiome has placed its founders on leave after an FBI raid

Of the 28 complaints sent to the FTC, 22 were related to billing, either in cases where The patients received an unexpected bill or cases where insurance companies were billed for non-delivered tests. Others mention instances where users did not get the test results after submitting their samples.

Customers met unexpected bills of as much as $ 3,000

Many of the complainants point to instances where users were told their insurance was approved. Someone had signed up for the uBiomes pilot program, which told potential testers in capital letters "No cost to you". If the health insurance did not pay, the people thought they would not be on the hook for the costs. But instead, the people in the complainants say they were left with bills of as much as $ 3,000. "I ordered a set and were not charged the cost of using the service. The company just said they would treat it through insurance," "My insurance company just covered some of the bill and it let me pay over $ 2000 for testing."

The FTC removed the names and other identifying information from those who made the complaint before giving it to Business Insider. that it cannot verify the claims and that it cannot confirm or refuse to investigate uBiome

A representative of UBiome refused to comment on the FTC complaint, the representative subjected to a previous statement where uBiome said it would conduct an independent investigation of their billing practices and collaborate with government and health insurance companies.

A complaint from April 2018 stated that the patient's spouse had incorrectly been billed for the test patient It had taken. During sorting out the error, uBiome billed both the patient and the spouse, and charged another $ 2,970 for a test that was not taken.

A patient complained that his or her insurance company had been billed for a test in which the patient never got the result. Another in April 2018 was notified by the insurer that the insurance company had overpaid uBiome for a test. The insurance company now wanted a refund of more than $ 600. Others had funds taken directly out of special savings accounts that they had set up to pay for medical services.

UBiome stopped selling two of his tests

On Monday, uBiome stopped selling SmartGut and SmartJane, which were tests that had to be ordered by a doctor. The company will still sell its "Explorer" test, which does not require a prescription.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the FBI raid, reported that the FBI is investigating uBiome's billing practices.

In May, CNBC reported that people who used the uBiomes test kit say they were encouraged by the company to take more than one test – sometimes as many as six. In some cases they were eventually sent several tests; In others, the company reached by email to encourage them to order another test.

The idea is that by taking more tests over time, you can get a better picture of how your microbiome changes.

On the website, UBiome said the tests "insurance-refunded", saying that "uBiome clinical trials are fully or partially covered by most health insurance companies under" out-of-network "healthcare benefits, says the company's website.

Some health insurance companies do not cover the tests

Some major insurance companies do not cover the tests.

Anthem in his medical policy considers uBiomes tests "investigative and not medically necessary", and Aetna considers the tests "experimental and investigative because their role in clinical management is not established. . "

Insurance companies, including Aetna and Cambia Health Solutions & # 39; Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, look at the company's billing practices, according to people who are familiar with the case.

Want to tell us about your experience with uBiome? email the authors at and

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