WASHINGTON – American Medical Response Inc. (AMR), one of the nation’s largest ambulance providers, has paid the United States over $9 million to resolve allegations that the company violated the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced today. The government alleged that the ambulance company provided illegal inducements to hospitals in Texas in exchange for referrals.
The settlement relates to allegations that the Greenwood, Colo.-based company provided or offered inducements to Texas hospitals in the form of contracts known as “swapping arrangements.” Such contracts gave the medical facilities discounts on transports in exchange for the referral of all or some of the ambulance transports of patients being discharged from the hospitals, which were billed to Medicare.
"Illegal inducements corrupt the integrity of the Medicare program by freezing out competitors, masking the true costs of services, and misdirecting program funds, among other things,” said Assistant Attorney General Peter D. Keisler of the Civil Division. “This settlement shows our ongoing commitment to pursue allegations of fraud and abuse in the Medicare system vigorously.”
The settlement arose out of qui tam or whistleblower lawsuits filed in 2000 and 2001 by two former AMR employees, Daniel Block and Adam Wightman. Under the False Claims Act, private individuals or firms, known as relators, can file suit on behalf of the government and may share in the recovery. As a result of the settlement, the two men will receive $1,620,000.
The investigation was conducted by the Civil Division of the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The cases are United States ex rel. Block v. Laidlaw Medical Transport, et al. (S.D. Tex.); and United States ex rel. Wightman v. Laidlaw, Inc., et al. (S.D. Tex.).