South Carolina Ambulance Company to Pay U.S $800,000 to Resolve False Claims Allegations
Williston Rescue Squad Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $800,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by making false claims for payment to Medicare for ambulance transports, the Justice Department announced today. Williston, based in Williston, S.C., provides ambulance transport services in the southwestern part of South Carolina.
Medicare is a federally-funded health care program that is intended to provide basic medical insurance to people over the age of 65. Medicare reimburses providers only for non-emergency ambulance transports if the patient transported is bed-confined or has a medical condition that requires ambulance transportation. The settlement resolves allegations that Williston billed Medicare for routine, non-emergency ambulance transports that were not medically necessary and that Williston created false documents to make the transports appear to meet the Medicare requirements.
“Billing Medicare for unnecessary ambulance transports contributes to the soaring costs of health care,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to pursuing companies that waste limited Medicare funds.”
“Medicare fraud is stealing, and it is crippling America’s health care system. We have doubled the number of attorneys working these cases in South Carolina. Take notice, if you are bilking the Medicare system designed to support our elders, we are working to find you. For the honest service providers, which is a greater majority of the community, you can report fraud at 1-800-MEDICARE,” said William N. Nettles, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by Sandra McKee under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions, of the False Claims Act. McKee is a clinical social worker at a facility that regularly received patients transported by Williston’s ambulances. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. Ms. McKee will receive $160,000 as her share of the government’s recovery.
This resolution is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover nearly $10.2 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $14 billion.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov .
The United States’ investigation was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, the Justice Department’s Civil Division, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General. The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.
The False Claims Act suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina and is captioned United States ex rel. McKee v. Williston Rescue Squad, Inc. , No. 11-CV-00186 (D.S.C.).