NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday announced a settlement with Mobile Life Support Services, Inc. (Mobile Life), an Orange County ambulance company that illegally billed patients for emergency medical services. Mobile Life billed patients for the difference between what their insurance plans paid and what the company charged, in an unlawful practice known as “balance billing.” Some unpaid accounts were referred to a debt collector.
As a result of an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), Mobile Life will pay full restitution plus interest to affected patients, request closure of all relevant accounts with debt collectors, update its billing practices, and pay a $100,000 penalty.
“Mobile Life Support Services took advantage of vulnerable patients with illegal billing and debt collection tactics,” said Attorney General James. “When New Yorkers need emergency medical care, the last thing they should be worried about is being exploited by the very company entrusted with helping them. Mobile Life will return all of the money they took from innocent New Yorkers, and my office will continue to defend patients from such predatory behavior.”
Mobile Life is a privately-owned, commercial ambulance service provider that answers more than 100,000 calls per year across the Hudson Valley Region. The OAG opened an investigation into Mobile Life after receiving complaints from New Yorkers who received ambulance services from Mobile Life and were billed for the difference between the ambulance company’s charge and the payment by the consumer’s health plan.
Under New York State insurance law, an ambulance service provider cannot bill a patient who has comprehensive health care coverage for the difference between the provider’s charges and the patient’s health plan’s payment, other than applicable co-payments, deductibles, or co-insurance. Under the law’s “ambulance mandate,” an insurance provider, or health plan, is required to pay the usual and customary charge to the ambulance service provider unless a contract with a different negotiated rate exists. This is true regardless of whether the ambulance service is a participating provider within the health plan’s network.
Mobile Life’s documented practice of improper balance billing cheated hardworking New Yorkers and impacted their credit, the OAG said in a press release. As a result of the settlement secured by OAG, Mobile Life will pay full restitution plus 12% interest per year to all patients who paid Mobile Life for illegal charges since June 1, 2016.
An independent auditor, retained and paid by Mobile Life, will review all payment records for this period to determine those who are eligible to receive restitution. For all patients whose unpaid, illegally charged accounts were referred to a debt collector, Mobile Life will instruct the debt collector to cease all collection activity, set the balance to $0, and direct all major credit bureaus to remove any derogatory information reported for the affected person.
Mobile life will also pay a penalty of $100,000, and an additional $15,000 for any future violation. In addition to financial relief, Mobile Life must modify its current billing practices so that the insurance provider is billed in the first instance, and the patient is clearly told that they owe only a copayment, coinsurance, or deductible.
Mobile Life must also invest in the development of a training curriculum on the new procedures to be administered to all current and future staff. This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Carol Hunt of the Health Care Bureau under the supervision of Bureau Chief Sudarsana Srinivasan. The Health Care Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.