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Brookhaven fines company over transporting Medicaid patients

A Southampton taxi company picked up Medicaid recipients in Brookhaven Town and transported them to medical appointments without being licensed to operate in the municipality, officials said Wednesday.

State officials said Hometown Taxi has been suspended from operating in Brookhaven. The company faces more than $26,000 in fines from the town after being issued 52 appearance tickets for the alleged violations, Brookhaven officials said in a news release. The company also faces possible penalties from the state Medicaid Inspector General's office, town officials said.

In a statement, the Medicaid Inspector General's office said Hometown Taxi  "is, at this time, prohibited from providing transportation services to Medicaid recipients within Brookhaven Town. The state has taken measures to ensure that any/all Medicaid recipients in the town will have ready access to transportation services utilizing other transportation providers in the Brookhaven Town area."

Under state law, cabs that pick up Medicaid recipients for medical appointments must be licensed by municipalities in which they operate. Brookhaven requires cabbies to be licensed by the town, officials said.

Hometown Taxi president Bryan DaParma denied wrongdoing and said his company provides an essential service to clients who need rides to doctors' offices and medical clinics.

DaParma said in an interview his company is similar to an ambulette service that is available to pick up patients by appointment for medical visits. He said the company's drivers are licensed by the Suffolk County Taxi and Limousine Commission, which conducts background checks and administers drug tests to applicants.

Hometown Taxi's website says the company's fleet, including vans, taxis, sport utility vehicles and town cars, is available for trips to medical offices, airports and wineries. The website lists the company's service area as East End communities such as Hampton Bays, Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Southold and East Hampton.

"We've done nothing wrong," DaParma said. “We only operate in the Hamptons, where we’re licensed. … We operate outside of that area under the county license. … We only transport clients to and from medical appointments through state contracts.”

Brookhaven officials said the charges against Hometown Taxi grew out of a larger investigation of unlicensed cab companies operating in the town. Officials said they discovered during the investigation that Hometown Taxi also was transporting Medicaid recipients.

“Brookhaven Town and New York State take Medicaid violations very seriously and we will continue to pursue any company that operates without a license to the fullest extent of the law,” Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said in a statement. “I have asked the town attorney to proceed with the investigation until every company is in compliance.” 

Brookhaven officials said in the news release it "is continuing to look into other taxi companies operating within the town," in a joint investigation with the Medicaid inspector general's office. 

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