Dozens of New Jersey ambulance companies — most of them headquartered within 15 miles of Paterson — billed Medicare for unusually large numbers of non-emergency ambulance rides in 2012, a ProPublica analysis of recently released Medicare payment data found.
Some 37 operators claimed an average of 50 trips or more per patient, collecting more than $46.5 million from Medicare that year. By comparison, in 33 other states, not a single ambulance company billed Medicare for that many rides per patient, the analysis showed.
Prosecutors had video showing some patients walking to and from ambulances, or even being driven to dialysis in personal vehicles instead of the ambulances for which Medicare was billed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Leahy said.
“It’s direct evidence that these patients are ambulatory,” she said, “that they don’t need to be transported by ambulance, yet the companies are submitting claims to Medicare stating that the transport by ambulance is medically necessary for their wellbeing.”