As part of the anti-fraud provisions of the health care legislation passed yesterday, Congress strengthened the False Claims Act – one of the most effective whistleblower laws in the United States – in order to ensure that whistleblowers can expose fraud under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Lindsey Williams, Advocacy Director at the National Whistleblowers Center, explained the whistleblower provisions incorporated into the health care law: “The bill directly addresses the right of whistleblowers to obtain protection under the False Claims Act. A number of courts had significantly narrowed the interpretation of ‘whistleblower’ under the law, resulting in a chilling effect on employees’ willingness to risk their careers to expose fraud against the taxpayers. The health care legislation passed by Congress contains a much-needed provision correcting these narrow, anti-whistleblower rulings.”
The legislation also ensures that the False Claims Act anti-fraud provisions will apply to the “exchanges” established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act if they use federal funds. Additionally, the False Claims Act is strengthened regarding failure to return overpayments and includes greater anti-kickback provisions.
“Regardless of where you stood on the health care debate, this is a major step forward for fraud prevention and ensures that whistleblowers, who risk their careers to expose fraud in the new health care system and by large pharmaceutical companies, won’t have their cases maliciously thrown out of court,” added Ms. Williams.
*Meryl Grenadier (NWC Fellow) contributed to this post.