PHOENIX — A private ambulance company that provides services in Arizona
and 20 other states has agreed to pay the federal government more than $2.8
million to resolve civil allegations that the business defrauded Medicare,
authorities announced Thursday.
Over a four-year period from 2007 to 2011, companies owned by Rural/Metro
Corporation in Arizona, New York, Oregon and Delaware billed Medicare for
numerous emergency patient transportation trips when the calls were not
emergencies, leading to substantially higher payments from Medicare for the
services, according to the government.
“The need to protect federal funds, including the Medicare trust fund, from
fraud, waste and abuse has never been greater,” John Leonardo, U.S. Attorney
for Arizona, said in a statement. “This settlement agreement is a substantial
recovery for taxpayers and sends a clear message that the federal government
will not stand idly by when its programs lose money due to false claims for
Leonardo said the government chose to settle the civil case “to avoid the
delay, uncertainty, inconvenience and expense of protracted litigation.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Rural/Metro does not admit wrongdoing, but
remains subject to investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and any
criminal liability that may arise through ongoing federal probes of the company.
In a statement, Rural/Metro said it had reached a “voluntary civil settlement
agreement” that does not include “any admission of liability.”
“The company agreed to settle the matter in order to avoid expensive and
time-consuming litigation and to maintain focus on ensuring its patients
continue to receive high quality emergency medical care,” the statement read.
The company said the payment will have no effect on its ongoing restructuring
efforts under a bankruptcy filing.