Paterson, NJ, United States (ProPublica) – by Charles Ornstein
To grasp Medicare’s staggering bill for ambulance rides in New Jersey, just visit the busy parking lot of the DaVita St. Joseph’s dialysis clinic in the town of Paterson.
More than 20 ambulances and a handful of wheelchair vans were parked outside on a recent morning there. Emergency medical technicians wheeled patients in and out on stretchers. As soon as one ambulance departed, another took its place.
For each one-way ride, Medicare pays ambulance companies nearly $200, plus $6 a mile. The program only covers ambulance rides if a doctor certifies that other modes of transportation would endanger a patient’s health. That happens rarely in most parts of the country. But not here.
Dozens of New Jersey ambulance companies-most of them headquartered within 15 miles of Paterson-billed Medicare for unusually large numbers of non-emergency ambulance rides in 2012, a ProPublica analysis of recently released Medicare payment data found.