Medicare paid out tens of millions for ambulance rides in which beneficiaries did not receive services, according a new government watchdog audit.
The inspector general of Health and Human Services released a report Tuesday that details questionable billing practices from ambulance suppliers, an area that is considered highly vulnerable to fraud. In the first half of 2012, tens of millions of dollars were spent on ambulance transports to destinations that were not covered by Medicare or where no services were rendered.
For Medicare to cover ambulance transports, the beneficiary’s medical condition at the time of the ride must be such that other forms of transportation would endanger his health. Additionally, the person being transported must receive medically necessary Medicare services or must be returning from such a service.
The inspector general discovered Medicare payments of $24 million in the first half of 2012 for ambulance transports that did not meet certain standards to be deemed justified, according to the report. Medicare paid $17 million for transport to locations not covered under Medicare such as between physician offices and an additional $30 million was billed for transport in which a person did not receive Medicare services at the time of the pickup or at the drop off locations.