A handful of ambulance companies in Texas and California have agreed to pay to the Federal government a total in $21 million to settle allegations that they conspired to run a kickback scheme to obtain referrals for services billable to Medicare and Medicaid across four states.
Per federal investigators, East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System, Inc. and East Texas Medical Center Regional Health Services, Inc. in concert with Paramedics Plus, LLC arranged a system of kickbacks with Emergency Medical Services Authority, Alameda County, California, and Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services Authority to be the recipient of those municipalities’ substantial and lucrative ambulance demands.
Investigators say Paramedics Plus CEO Herbert Stephen Williamson offered a raft of illegal inducements to obtain ambulance calls for his companies, many of which were ultimately billed to Medicare and Medicaid. Such activities violate federal laws.
To date, Alameda County has paid $50,000 to settle with federal investigators in relation to the alleged scheme. Pinellas EMSA tendered $66,000 to the Federal government as well as $5,200 to the State of Florida to settle allegations, while Williamson settled with ETMC and Paramedics Plus for $20.649 million and EMSA for $300,000. Williamson also agreed to pay the Federal and Oklahoma governments $80,000, which was scaled based upon his ability to pay.
The allegations in question came to light due to a filing under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act (a/k/a, “the Lincoln Law”), which allows whistleblowers to initiate a suit against a company he believes is in violation. Federal investigators then have the option of taking over the suit after investigating its merits.
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