Everett Fire Station #1 on Rucker Ave. is seen here on Dec. 18, 2017. (Herald file)

Everett Fire Station #1 on Rucker Ave. is seen here on Dec. 18, 2017. (Herald file)

Feds: Ambulance overbilling settlement ‘sends a clear message’

The U.S. attorney issued a statement Thursday chastising the Everett Fire Department.

EVERETT — The U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement on Thursday condemning the Everett Fire Department for past practices of overbilling for ambulance rides.

A settlement of more than $200,000 became final Thursday, according to the news release. The Herald reported the terms of the draft agreement on Dec. 29.

“This settlement, with Everett paying two times the damages they caused as allowed under federal law, sends a clear message to others who may try to ‘fudge’ the paperwork to get higher reimbursement rates than allowed,” U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said in the news release.

The city has said there were billing problems discovered but not “willful wrongdoing.”

The investigation focused on 2010 through 2016. It found the city had charged public insurers — mainly Medicaid and Medicare — a higher rate for advanced medical care for less-serious 911 calls, so long as a paramedic responded.

The city’s third-party billing vendor is paying part of the settlement.

The city also spent $153,500 on outside legal help and forensic accounting in connection with the case. The state Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit also was involved.

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