New York ambulance company to pay almost 3 million dollars for Medicare fraud
Health care is a highly regulated industry and it is no surprise that providers are under constant scrutiny to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. In the current political climate, authorities are particularly careful to guard against the waste of public funds and the abuse of entitlement programs. This means that in some circumstances, health care providers could find themselves facing allegations of Medicare fraud.
Recently, Rural/Metro Corporation – an ambulance company with operations in several states, including Oregon, Delaware, Arizona and New York – agreed to pay $2.8 million to settle civil charges of Medicare fraud. According to investigators, the company had engaged in suspect billing practices that lead to substantial overpayment by the federal government. Specifically, investigators alleged that Rural/Metro wrongly classified many ambulance trips submitted to Medicare as emergencies, which cost more than non-emergency trips.
The settlement may not mean that Rural/Metro is in the clear. Although the company admitted to no wrongdoing, it remains under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and some in the company may face criminal charges. Both Rural/Metro and federal authorities said that they decided to settle the matter to save the time and expense of drawn out litigation.
Authorities seek to stop health care fraud
In recent years, federal authorities – including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Medicaid Fraud Control Units in the Office of the Inspector General – have stepped up efforts to prevent Medicaid fraud. In 2007, authorities also created the New York FBI Health Care Fraud Task Force to investigate, prosecute and prevent health care fraud in New York City. These groups have proven to be extremely effective in stopping the incidence of fraud in the area. Indeed, just recently, they announced the arrest of a pharmacist who is accused of defrauding Medicare out of several million dollars for HIV medications.
As the Rural/Metro case demonstrates, charges of Medicaid fraud bring the possibility of serious consequences, including significant fines and, depending upon the circumstances, jail time. While authorities may examine the books of ambulance companies, pharmacies or medical imaging groups, it is also not uncommon for them to investigate physicians and nurses, as well.
If you are a medical professional and you are under investigation for health care fraud, it is important to speak to an experienced health care law attorney. An attorney can explain your options and can help you take steps to protect your rights. Talk to an attorney today for more information.