A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted an Arnold doctor for allegedly submitting inflated and false Medicare claims related to COVID-19 tests his office conducted between March 2020 and December 2021 in Gambrills, Earleigh Heights and other Maryland locations.
Ron K. Elfenbein, then-medical director of Gambrills-based Drs ERgent Care LLC, allegedly charged Medicare not just for the tests but for related patient evaluation and management sessions he claimed lasted more than 30 minutes but were in fact extremely brief, the indictment stated.
The fraudulent charges to Medicare and other insurers totaled more than $1.5 million, according to the indictment handed down in U.S. District Court and signed by Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron.
“The indictment alleges that Ron Elfenbein took advantage of a national health crisis to line his own pockets,” Barron said in a statement Wednesday. “Our office has and will continue to investigate and prosecute fraud by anyone who used the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud individuals or the government.”
Elfenbein is being represented by attorneys William C. Brennan Jr. and Michael E. Lawlor of Brennan McKenna & Lawlor Chtd. in Greenbelt.
“In the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Ron Elfenbein rallied his doctor’s office in a time of global fear, to be a leading provider of COVID-19 testing and treatment in the community,” Lawlor stated via email April 21.
“These efforts enabled essential personnel, including police officers, firefighters, and health care providers to continue to perform their vital work,” Lawlor added. “A trial in this case will prove not only that Dr. Elfenbein is innocent of the charges hastily brought by the government, but that during a time of unprecedented need, Dr. Elfenbein and his staff saved the lives of numerous Marylanders.”
The indictment stated that Drs ERgent Care also operated drive-through testing sites in Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.
“Ron K. Elfenbein instructed providers and other employees of Drs ERgent Care to submit claims to Medicare for these lucrative E/M (evaluation and management) services knowing that some or all of the beneficiaries were being seen by providers for less than five minutes total,” the indictment stated. “Nevertheless, Ron K. Elfenbein instructed providers and other employees to bill the encounters as moderate complexity E/M services even though such encounters did not occur as represented.”
The case against Elfenbein will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Phelps and D. Keith Clouser of the U.S. Justice Department’s fraud section, Barron’s office reported.
If convicted, Elfenbein could face up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the three counts of health care fraud, according to Barron’s office.
The case is docketed at U.S. District Court as United States of America v. Ron K. Elfenbein, No. 22-cr-146-JKB.
Elfenbein’s indictment was one of 18 handed down nationwide in recent days for alleged health care fraud related to COVID-19 testing and treatment that amounted to nearly $150 million in false claims, the Justice Department reported.
“The Department of Justice’s Health Care Fraud Unit and our partners are dedicated to rooting out schemes that have exploited the pandemic,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr., who heads DOJ’s criminal division, said in a statement. “Today’s enforcement action reinforces our commitment to using all available tools to hold accountable medical professionals, corporate executives, and others who have placed greed above care during an unprecedented public health emergency.”