A New Flavor: Ambulance Fraud

There is fraud at all stages of the health care delivery process, and as a settlement in a district court case in the Eastern District of New York emphasizes, even ambulance companies are trying to get a bigger piece of that Federal pie, courtesy of you the taxpayer.

The case is:

United States ex rel. Kaplan v. Metropolitan Ambulance & First-Aid Corp. et al., Civil Action No. 00-3010 (E.D.N.Y.).

According to allegations in a qui tam suit by the former CFO of one of the companies, Metropolitan Ambulance & First Aid Corp. (now known as SEZ Metro Corp.), Metro North Ambulance Corp. (now known as SEZ North Corp.) and Big Apple Ambulance Service Inc. (formerly known as United Ambulance), and the president of the companies, Steve Zakheim, used falsified records to appeal a Medicare refund demand. The situation is a bit convoluted, but what the companies were doing essentially consisted of the old health-care fraud standby: taking patients on unnecessary and expensive ambulance trips, and billing Medicare for the services. The government determined that these trips were in fact unnecessary and demanded a refund of the tens of millions of (tax payer) dollars that had been paid out. As is customary, an extensive appeals process was available.

However, Zakheim and his ambulance armada apparently didn’t have the required proof to back-up their case on appeal, so they allegedly doubled their fun/fraud by submitting hundreds of forged letters verifying that the ambulance trips were medically necessary! The ROI was not so good here: Zakheim and the companies must pay $2.5 million in settlement money, not to mention the millions of dollars to be refunded. Vigilant whistleblower Larry Kaplan will pocket $618,450.

One has to ask: was it really worth it to engage in the fraud in the first place? This is yet another case in which the business logic behind some of the decisions seems to have been seriously lacking. The next time you see an ambulance speeding along (possibly with a bunch of cash flying out the windows) keep in mind that it might be following theĀ  road to fraud!

This article is brought to you by the QTT, the epicenter for whistleblowers and people interested in the False Claims Act, Qui Tam Provisions, and Medicare and Medicaid fraud. To discuss a potential case, please call Eric Young at 1 (800) 590-4116.