On January 26, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington announced a False Claims Act complaint filed against MultiCare Health System. The complaint, which stems from a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit, alleges that Multicare endangered patients and falsely and fraudulently billed federal health care programs for spinal surgeries performed by Dr. Jason Dreyer.
According to the government, in 2019, Dr. Dreyer resigned from his position at Providence St. Mary’s Medical Center “amidst allegations that he was performing medically-unnecessary surgeries, harming patients, and falsifying diagnoses.” The government further alleges that “during MultiCare’s hiring process, it became aware of concerns and ‘red flags’ about Dr. Dreyer and his surgical judgment from his time at Providence, but, recognizing that he was a ‘workhorse,’ made the decision to hire him and allow him to begin seeing patients and performing surgery at Deaconess Hospital in July 2019.”
Furthermore, in February 2020, Multicare allegedly became aware of an investigation by the U.S. government into concerns that Dr. Dreyer was harming patients, falsifying diagnoses, and performing medically-unnecessary surgeries. The government alleges that despite this knowledge, Multicare continued to allow Dr. Dreyer to see patients and perform surgeries.
According to the government, “MultiCare not only endangered patients through its conduct, but falsely and fraudulently claimed and received reimbursement for millions of dollars from federal health care programs between July 2019 and March 2021.” These federal health care programs include Medicare, Washington State Medicaid, the VA Community Care program, the TRICARE program, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits program.
“As alleged in the Complaint, MultiCare was aware of serious concerns that Dr. Dreyer was putting patients in danger,” said United States Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref. “The Complaint alleges that MultiCare nonetheless made the decision to allow him to treat and operate on patients, even after it became aware of the federal investigation. This is an egregious breach of the public trust.”
“Health care providers that perform medically unnecessary procedures undermine the public’s trust in the health care system and exploit taxpayer-funded programs,” stated Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).
Prior to the government’s complaint, a former patient of Dr. Dreyer’s filed a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit against Multicare. The False Claims Act’s (FCA) qui tam provisions allow individuals to file lawsuits on behalf of the government against individuals and companies that violate the FCA. The government then has the option to intervene and take over the suit, as they did in this case. Qualified FCA whistleblowers are entitled to receive between 15-30% of the funds collected from a successful qui tam suit.
On July 25, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the False Claims Amendments Act of 2023, which address a few technical loopholes undermining the success of the FCA. The bill is widely supported by whistleblower advocates.
“The False Claims Act is America’s number one fraud-fighting law,” said whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn. “These amendments are urgently needed to ensure that whistleblowers can continue to play their key role in protecting taxpayers from corporate criminals.”
Kohn sees the passage of the False Claims Amendments Act as one of the seven most urgently needed whistleblower reforms. National Whistleblower Center (NWC), where Kohn serves as Chairman of the Board, has issued an Action Alert calling on Congress to pass the bill.