Ambulance firm to pay $1.475 million Runyon company resolves allegations about billing

April 02, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

The ambulance company owned by a Baltimore businessman who is a major contributor to Democratic campaigns has agreed to pay $1.475 million to resolve allegations it improperly billed Medicare and Medicaid for ambulance trips to doctors' offices, the U.S. attorney said yesterday.

American Ambulance and Oxygen Co., which is owned by Willie Runyon, a political fund-raiser at the local, state and federal levels, acknowledged its submission of claims was not consistent with Medicare reimbursement policy, but otherwise denied the allegations and disputes that its claims were improper.

Runyon, who underwent a medical test yesterday, was not available for comment.

He has been a major political contributor for years and was the largest contributor to Gov. Parris N. Glendening's legal defense fund. Runyon gave $85,000 to the fund, which was formed to counter Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey's legal challenge to the November 1994 gubernatorial election.

Runyon also gave $234,250 to the Democratic Party for President Clinton's 1996 campaign and was a guest at the White House for coffee.

Regulations governing Medicare, a medical insurance program for the elderly, and Medicaid, which pays for health care for the poor, generally prohibit reimbursement for ambulance transportation for visits to doctors' offices, the U.S. attorney's office said.

An investigation of claims submitted by American Ambulance between 1991 and 1994 showed that the company was fTC reimbursed $422,000 for Medicare claims and $108,000 for Medicaid claims involving round-trip ambulance rides to doctors' offices.

"Medicare only authorizes reimbursement for ambulance transportation in very limited circumstances, usually for emergency transportation to a hospital. It is not a taxi service. " said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen McDermott.

The action taken against American Ambulance comes under the False Claims Act, which allows the federal government to recover three times the amount of money that investigators can determine was lost, which resulted in the $1.475 million settlement.

In addition to paying the settlement, American Ambulance has agreed to enter into a Corporate Integrity Program to be administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It will include employee training on how to bill for Medicare and a confidential disclosure program for employees who wish to report improper billing.

In February 1990, two of Runyon's ambulance companies agreed to pay $400,000 in restitution and civil penalties for allegedly filing false Medicare claims.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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