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For Immediate Release
June 12, 2006
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

AMBULANCE COMPANY SETTLES WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE FOR IMPROPER BILLING


Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that his Consumer Protection Division has reached a settlement with an Arizona ambulance company concerning its billing practices. The company, Dunlock, Ltd., 8401 East Indian School Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, did business in Maryland from 1997 to 2003 as Rural Metro Ambulance. Rural Metro agreed to return to consumers more than $95,000 that it allegedly improperly billed for ambulance services.

The Consumer Protection Division alleged that Rural Metro violated the Consumer Protection Act by billing consumers who belong to Health Maintenance Organizations (“HMOs”) amounts for ambulance services in excess of the limits of their insurance coverage. This practice, known as “balance billing,” is prohibited by Maryland law. The Division also alleged that Rural Metro violated the Consumer Protection Act by billing Maryland consumers who were Medicaid and Medicare subscribers for covered services, other than for a co-payment or a deductible. Rural Metro also allegedly accepted assignment of consumers’ insurance coverage but, nevertheless, billed consumers for ambulance services without first seeking reimbursement from the assigned insurance policies. Rural Metro denied the allegations but agreed to settle the matter.

In the settlement, Rural Metro agreed to return the amounts that the Division alleged were improperly billed, an amount estimated to be $95,000. Rural Metro also agreed to pay the Division a $50,000 civil penalty and $30,000 in costs. Although Rural Metro is no longer offering ambulance services in Maryland, it agreed to alter its billing practices if it ever operates in the state again.

“ Consumers who are insured through HMOs cannot be billed for a covered service beyond any applicable co-pay or deductible,” Curran said. “I encourage consumers who are concerned that they are not being billed properly for health care services to contact my Office’s Health Education and Advocacy Unit.”

Consumers eligible for restitution under the settlement will be contacted by the Consumer Protection Division. Consumers with complaints about the bills they receive from their health care providers may call the Health Education and Advocacy Unit at 1-877-261-8807 or 410-528-1840 or may file a complaint over the Internet at www.oag.state.md.us/consumer/heau.htm.


   

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