Five ambulance companies have agreed to pay more than $11 million to the federal government to settle whistleblower allegations that they were involved in a kickback scheme.
The settlement, which was unsealed this week in San Diego, requires California ambulance companies Balboa Ambulance Service, E.R. Ambulance, Care Ambulance Service, Pacific Ambulance and Bowers Companies to pay a total of $11.5 million.
The U.S. Department of Justice had accused the companies of engaging in an illegal kickback scheme in which they provided deeply discounted, and often below-cost ambulance services to hospitals or nursing facilities in exchange for the exclusive rights to more lucrative Medicare patient services.
The practice is known as "swapping," according to the government, and often leads to overpayment by Medicare. Anti-kickback laws prohibits such arrangements that are intended to influence health-care referrals.
The Justice Department's case was prompted by a civil lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by Kelvin Carlisle, a competitor in the Southern California ambulance market. Under the agreement, Carlisle will receive about $1.7 million of the settlement.
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