A doctor who runs a chain of urgent care facilities headquartered in Gambrills is facing federal charges alleging he fraudulently “bundled” COVID-19 testing with more expensive services while filing Medicare claims.
The three-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury accuses Dr. Ron Elfenbein, the founder and CEO of Chesapeake ERgent Care, of instructing employees to bundle COVID-19 tests with “more lucrative but medically unnecessary” services that were valued higher when submitting claims to Medicare.
The chain of clinics, which is also known as First Call Medical Center, operates in several locations throughout Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.
Elfenbein did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Wednesday.
The indictment alleges that routine COVID-19 tests at the urgent care centers, usually a brief process, were billed as services that involved “moderate or high levels of medical decision making” that lasted more than 30 minutes.
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He told employees that the more complex services were “the ‘bread and butter’ of how we get paid,” the indictment says.
The indictment estimates the claims, which were for visits not provided as described or were not medically necessary, total more than $1.5 million. The three counts in the indictment filed Tuesday allege three specific instances throughout 2021, which together total about $1,000.
In a Department of Justice news release, FBI Special Agent Thomas J. Sobocinski said Elfenbein “sought to line his own pockets” throughout the pandemic “by grossly overbilling Medicare and other insurers for these vital health care services during a time of national crisis.”
Elfenbein is charged with three counts of Medicare fraud. If convicted, Elfenbein faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for each of the counts, the news release says. He did not have an attorney listed in court records on Wednesday.
Last year, the chain of clinics opened a new medical center inside BWI Marshall Airport. During the grand opening event, Elfenbein and a group of other leaders, including Gov. Larry Hogan, cut the ceremonial ribbon for the clinic.
Elfenbein had previously run for the House of Delegates in 2006 and 2015 and for state Senate in 2010.
In 2020, the chain’s Gambrills clinic was ordered by the Maryland Department of Health to send letters to about 300 of its COVID-19 testing patients after the department inspected the clinic and found 10 violations related to failure to comply with the manufacturer’s instructions for the test.