Caution – GS Labs’ Covid Testing Site Ahead

Back Off.

That’s my advice to Oregonians considering going to a pop-up Covid testing site operated by GS Labs, an Omaha, Nebraska–based company.

I took a break Friday morning and stopped by the GS Labs pop-up site at a former restaurant 10935 SW 68th Parkway (Google says this is in Portland; GS Labs says it’s in Tigard). A worker told me I needed to schedule an appointment online and the test cost would be $179, but I might be able to get the testing center to agree to a 50% discount. He added that GS Labs only takes commercial insurance or cash payments, and does not accept Medicare, federal health insurance that covers much of the elderly population most vulnerable to COVID-19.

(NOTE: Medicare pays for COVID-19 tests performed by a labsuch as PCR or antigen/rapid tests, at no cost to you when the test is ordered by an authorized health care professional. Those in a Medicare Advantage Plan should check with their plan to see if their plan offers coverage and payment for at-home tests.)

The GS Labs appointments website allows visitors to pick a location in eight states across the country, view available appointments and select a payment option, either “Book with Insurance (*Rapid Antigen and Standard PCR only)“ or “Book Rapid PCR (*Out of Pocket only $299)”

Formed in January 2020, GS Labs spun out of a clinic, 88 Med, owned by City+Ventures, a privately held Omaha, Nebraska-based investment and development company. 88 Med specialized in cosmetic procedures and hormone treatments.

City+Ventures was founded in 2012 to pursue strategic business and real estate opportunities both locally and regionally. Two men, Danny White and Chris Erickson, co-founded the company and are now co-owners. White has a B.S. in Business Administration from Skidmore College in New York. Erickson has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Iowa State University.

The company’s website says, “We are a group of business savvy, community-minded individuals….” Based on its covid testing practices, “community minded” hardly applies.

Some health insurers have refused to pay GS Labs’ fees, contending that the laboratory is price-gouging during a public health crisis, the New York Times reported in Sept. 2021.

A Blue Cross plan in Missouri, for example, has sued GS Labs over its prices, seeking a ruling that would void $10.9 million in outstanding claims. In August 2021, the insurer claimed that the fees were “disaster profiteering” and in violation of public policy.

Suburban Seattle-based Premera Blue Cross sued GS Labs on Oct. 14, 2021, alleging that the company was exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic by overcharging for COVID-19 testing. Premera alleged that GS charged prices ranging from $380 to $979 per test, which often amounted to 10 times more than what other labs were charging.

Premera further alleges GS Labs “peppers its claims with falsehoods,” including false diagnoses to get higher payments, and it frequently fails to maintain high quality levels in its testing and reporting of results.  

According to Pharmacy Practice News, Premera’s suit alleged that GS Labs has improperly filed claims for more than $26 million worth of COVID-19 tests. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, which filed a lawsuit against GS Labs in July 2021, alleged that the lab provider billed $9.2 million in improper charges for COVID-19 testing.

In an Oct. 2021 interview with the Omaha World-Herald, Chris Erickson said he and his partners are proud of their testing business. He said it helped consumers navigate an unpredictable pandemic at a time of inadequate testing options. Fees billed to insurers reflect a high level of service and the cost of building an infrastructure of equipment and trained personnel in an “insanely short period of time,” Erickson said.

It’s not just insurance companies that are less then enthralled with GS Labs.

Indeed.com reviews of working for GS Labs are largely harsh. Typical are the following:

“Management seems to have their own motives (money)…Management seems disorganized, unfair, and corrupt based on their own agendas.”

“… it is clear, they work with no morals, no ethical treatment of employees and you are just a number…Greedy company,”

“It’s almost like being in middle school. If you are lazy, unmotivated and are just looking for a paycheck, then GSLabs Omaha is the place for you.”

“Patients are being lied to just so this company can make a profit.”

So, what to do if you want a Covid test?

The Biden Administration announced today that it is purchasing one billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to give to Americans for free. A half-billion tests will be available for order on January 19th and will be mailed directly to American households. The initial program will allow four free tests to be requested per residential address. Starting January 19th, Americans will be able to order their tests online at COVIDTests.gov, and tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering.

(NOTE: Guard against scammers trying to steal your personal information. When ordering tests, use the official, secure government website: https://COVIDtests.gov. Watch out for phone scammers, tooIf you get a phone call requesting information so that free at-home tests can be mailed to you, hang up — it’s a scam!)

The Administration is also highlighting that there are over 20,000 free testing sites across the nation, including many pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy free testing program, as well as federal surge free testing sites, with more free testing sites opening each week. Millions of free, at-home COVID-19 tests have also been delivered to thousands of community health centers and rural health clinics to distribute to their patients, with more delivered each week. 

In addition, the Administration provided schools $10 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to get tests to K-12 school districts. And, the Administration invested nearly $6 billion in ARP funding to cover free testing for uninsured individuals, and support testing in correctional facilities, shelters for people experiencing homelessness, and mental health facilities.
Just this week, the Administration also announced that starting January 15th, private health insurance companies will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free—and made an additional 10 million COVID-19 tests available to schools nationwide, each month.

In the meantime, the Oregon Attorney General has issued a consumer warning:

“The huge demand for Covid-19 testing of all kinds—at home tests, rapid antigen tests, PCR tests–brings bad actors and some businesses trying to make a quick buck out from the shadows,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said. “We see it all the time in moments of desperation like this testing urgency.”

So hang in there.

If Kristof Can Do It, So Can I

Gov. Abbott will pick the Texas secretary of state, who gets vast new  powers from GOP elections bill

If the New York City Council can approve a bill allowing 800,000 non-citizen New Yorkers to vote in municipal elections, surely Oregon can bend its rules to let Nicholas Kristof run for governor.

Oregon already has made it clear it has no problem with one of its U.S. Senators living for extended periods in New York City in a $8.6 million 19th century townhouse.

Kristof, who was born in Chicago, has lived in Yamhill, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo and New York City. He was registered to vote in New York from 2000 until December 2020 and voted there as recently as November 2020. He only registered as an Oregon voter on Dec. 28, 2020.  

But let’s be honest. Other politicians have maneuvered around election residency requirements.

In 2010, then-former-senator Dan Coats was trying to win back his old seat in Indiana  when it was reported that even though he was from the state, he’d been living and voting in Virginia since 2000. But, as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say on Saturday Night Live, “Never mind.” Coats won the election anyway. 

Richard Lugar served as a U.S. Senator representing Indiana from 1977 to 2013, even though he sold his Indianapolis house in 1977 and moved to Washington, D.C. His excuse? He told reporters he and his wife wanted to keep their family together and they couldn’t afford two houses.

Even though Kristof has moved around a lot, in a statement posted on Twitter on Jan. 6, 2022, he said he owes his “entire existence” to Oregon.  “This state welcomed my dad as a refugee, and he put down roots here,” he wrote. “Oregon has provided a home to me and my family as those roots deepened. Because I have always known Oregon to be my home, the law says that I am qualified to run for governor.”

Kristof has also put forward an opinion from William Riggs, a justice on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1998 to 2006, saying Kristof is an Oregon resident because he has frequently described Yamhill as “home” and has always considered himself an Oregonian. 

“Candidate’s conduct over decades and in recent years, as well as his description of Oregon as ‘home’ in contemporaneous writings, leaves no doubt that he has considered Oregon to be his home; in these circumstances, having voted in New York does not indicate otherwise,” Riggs wrote.

I’m so convinced by the logic of Kristof’s arguments that I’m thinking of running for governor of Connecticut.

All gubernatorial candidates in Connecticut must be:

  • at least 30 years old
  • a registered voter
  • a resident of Connecticut for at least six months on the day of the election

I’m way past 30 years old. OK, I first registered to vote in Colorado when I was 18 and I’ve been a registered voter in Oregon since 1984, but I can change that to Connecticut in a wink. And as far as being a resident of Connecticut for at least six months on the day of the next election, I’ve considered Wallingford, CT my “home” from the time I was born. 

Ask anybody about my connections to Connecticut. They go back a long way.

In 1833, at the age of 20, a fellow named William of Scotland departed from the port of Greenock and embarked on a voyage to America on the ship “Moscow”, a 461-ton, 80 HP Iron Screw Steamer built by Palmer Brothers of New Castle. A tempestuous six weeks later, the ship docked in New York City. On July 9, 1838, William married Mary Hall, 29, and in 1842 they built a home in Wallingford, CT where they lived for the rest of their lives.

After Mary died in 1845, William married Temperance Hall. They had a son, Theodore. When William died in 1872 his children sent away to Scotland for red Scotch granite for his monument, which still stands in Wallingford’s Center Street Cemetery.

Theodore became one of the foremost leaders of the engineering profession in Connecticut. He married and had a son, William, who later became Superintendent of Wallingford Water Works. After William married Helen, they had a son, William, my father. Except for when he lived in Washington, D.C. as a Navy officer during WWII, he lived his entire life in Wallingford, I was raised in Wallingford, too, living on N. Main St. until I went to college. 

I have other strong ties to Connecticut, too. I’m a descendent through marriage of Samuel Andrews, one of the founders of Wallingford in 1670, and of Lyman Hall, who was born in Wallingford in 1724 and later signed the Declaration of Independence. 

So, with all this, I figure I owe my “entire existence” to Connecticut and it is as much my “home” as Oregon is Kristof’s.

One more thing.

On. January 14, Kristof’s lawyers filed their first brief to the Oregon Supreme Court. Stretching their argument about as far as possible, the brief argued that denying Kristof, who has lived in lots of places, a spot on the ballot would disenfranchise other Oregonians who have lived in lots of places.

“There are many peripatetic Oregonians who, for various reasons, live in more than one place and may prefer candidates who understand the experience of living in multiple places or changing residences often,” the brief says. “Such Oregonians come from all walks of life: houseless and housing-insecure persons; university students; seasonal migrant workers; servicemembers; snowbirds; the list goes on. These groups are disserved by the Secretary’s interpretation, contravening the spirit of free and equal elections.”

I haven’t yet set up a website for my gubernatorial race, but I plan to let all my celebrity, journalism and Washington, D.C. friends know that they should start setting aside some big bucks to contribute to my campaign. I may not be able get money from Angelina Jolie, who has given to Kristof, but Kim Novak stayed at a house next to mine in Wallingford when she was performing at a local musical theater when I was a kid and I met the actress Tuesday Weld once in California. Maybe I could hit them up for some cash.

Are you with me?

Nicholas Kristof’s Agenda for Oregon: More Magical Thinking

The cat’s out of the bag. 

Gubernatorial hopeful Nicholas Kristof is just another classic tax-and-spend liberal promising more free stuff.  Secretary of State Shemia Fagan may have determined that Kristof doesn’t meet Oregon’s residency requirement to qualify to run for governor, but he has made it clear he doesn’t plan to drop out.

His agenda for Oregon reminds me of an observation by American journalist and cultural critic H.L. Mencken that the principal device of many seeking to get and hold office in government “… is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them.”

In a January 3, 2022, newsletter, Kristof lamented that Americans aren’t guaranteed health insurance, dental care, Internet access, shelter, child-care, jobs, free pre-K and so much more. “Some of (these) services would be difficult or expensive to provide, but the same was true of universal postal service and electrical power,” he asserted.

Is there anything on that list you haven’t heard people such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal advocate? 

Is there anything on that list Tina Kotek, another gubernatorial hopeful and a key member of the Democratic party’s left wing, wouldn’t support?

The fact is Kristof’s agenda is a list of proposed entitlements for Oregonians that would be almost guaranteed to become more costly over time and, like opiates, become addictive.  

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, a book written by Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, has been widely praised for its empathetic portrayal of struggling Americans. I’ve read the book. What has been less noted is how the book excuses individuals from responsibility for life’s travails and makes them victims of circumstance. 

Even the Goodreads summary of the book sees things this way, attributing personal failures to public policy, not personal choices: “Taken together, these accounts provide a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes.”

As one reviewer put it, “Where this book struggles is the complete removal of personal responsibility for any of life’s difficulties, instead completely shifting this to the failings of Government and Society in general. I do think this can play part of a role in the situations people find themselves in, but personal drive and responsibility has to be a factor, or even a government program cannot succeed.” 

Another reviewer expressed a similar concern: “My opinion is that Kristof focuses more on the lack of safety nets that let his friends down instead of the real culprits: Parenting and personal responsibility. The friends and families I knew did not shoot guns at their spouses, engage in criminal activity as children, or begin using drugs at a young age. These are behavioral patterns that are passed down from parent to child, not something that befalls them only as a result of bad luck. To give this perspective so little attention in his book is shortsighted.”

As a conservative, I find Kristof’s approach to social issues troubling and worry it would guide his approaches to governing.

I also worry that, in any case, he’s simply not prepared to lead Oregon, increasing the likelihood he would be an incompetent governor and make things worse.

In a time when for some people the words “political experience” are a slur, Kristof is trying to get around his inexperience by likening himself to innovative and widely admired former Oregon governor Tom McCall, who served during 1967-75. 

“I bring the same experience that Tom McCall brought when he was elected,” Kristof told Willamette Week. “McCall, of course, was a journalist who had never been in the Legislature. And what he brought was a skill set that I think is essential for a successful governor. It’s articulating a vision for the state to rally people around that agenda and then using the convening power of the office to help achieve it.”

Chuck Sheketoff, former director of the left-leaning Oregon Center for Public Policy, has bought into Kristof’s argument. “In the current political environment, it’s refreshing to have someone who doesn’t have baggage and history,” Sheketoff said in November 2021.

Only somebody who knows their candidate lacks qualifications for the job they’re seeking would say this.