Changes are on the way in the structure of the ambulance company that serves Sioux Falls, as it asks for a federal lawsuit to be thrown out.
The federal government alleges that Paramedics Plus created a slush fund and paid $20 million in kickbacks to an Oklahoma ambulance authority and filed false claims totaling tens of millions of dollars.
KELOLAND News investigates has been following this story since our original investigation last June into Paramedic Plus being at “Level Zero,” when patients either had to wait longer than expected for an ambulance or one never arrived at all.
Whether it’s a loved one not breathing, a heart attack or a car crash, you pick up the phone and dial 911. You expect the first medical responders to arrive within minutes and that includes an ambulance.
KELOLAND News has an update on the changes to the for-profit ambulance company and the government’s lawsuit against it.
The federal government’s lawsuit alleges that Paramedics Plus paid an Oklahoma ambulance authority secret bribes and kickbacks. It also alleges that Paramedics Plus offered similar deals in California, Florida and Indiana.
Now, Paramedics Plus and its parent company, East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare, want the lawsuit thrown out. Paramedics Plus contends it did nothing wrong and the return of profits to community organizations was public and standard practice in the industry.
In its motion to dismiss the federal government’s case against it, Paramedics Plus says that in its “zeal to make headlines and to tout big-dollar recoveries, the government seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in damages” and “threatens to destroy an entire system of hospitals upon which thousands of East Texans depend for medical care.”
The government contends it’s against the law to pay kickbacks in order to gain access to Medicare and Medicaid funds. Paramedics Plus says Medicare and Medicaid never lost “one penny” because of its profit cap. It also denies that any of its payments to ambulance authorities were kickbacks or bribes to get contracts.
East Texas Medical Central Regional Healthcare has also filed its own motion to have a judge throw out the case, saying the government doesn’t have a case.
South Dakota is not listed in the government’s lawsuit. Sioux Falls Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority says there was no profit cap for Paramedics Plus here.
However, when it got the contract in Sioux Falls, Paramedics Plus said it was making a $1.7 million investment into the REMSA system.
Meanwhile, East Texas Medical Center will merge its two ambulance services, EMS and Paramedics Plus, and spin off the division as a separate entity and is looking for a new partner to run it.
Paramedics Plus President Ron Schwartz says he it doesn’t anticipate any change in the ambulance workforce or management structure.