Saturday, November 26, 2022

AG: Mobile Life Fined for Breaking Laws, Exploiting Customers

Mobile Life Support Services, a paid ambulance covering much of the area, has reached a settlement with the New York State Attorney General for illegally charging patients, sending patients to debt collection, and violating insurance laws. Patients who were illegally billed must be paid back with full restitution plus 12% interest, while Mobile Life will be paying a hefty fine.

Mobile Life is the primary ambulance service provider for the City of Newburgh. It also provides some coverage to surrounding municipalities. Mobile Life is a privately owned, commercial ambulance service provider that answers more than 100,000 calls per year across the Hudson Valley.

The announcement was announced today by Attorney General Letitia James, who accused Mobile Life of billing patients for the difference between what their insurance plans paid and what Mobile Life charged in its overall bill. This is an unlawful practice known as “balance billing,” said James. Mobile Life would then refer some unpaid accounts to a debt collector.

As a result of an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, Mobile Life must now pay full restitution plus 12% interest each year to all affected patients. Mobile Life must also request closure of all relevant debt collection accounts.

“When New Yorkers are in need of emergency medical care, the last thing they should be worried about is being exploited by the very company entrusted with helping them,” James pointed out, “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.”

The Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Mobile Life after receiving complaints from patients who were billed for the difference between Mobile Life’s charge and the payment by the patient’s health plan. Under New York State’s insurance laws, 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 co-pays or deductibles. According to James, 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,” James stated.

As a result of the settlement secured by the Attorney General’s Office, 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 time 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 co-payment 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.

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