In an effort to make the task of blowing the whistle much easier, whistleblower hotline services have been set up around the Country. When Medicare fraud is suspected, there is an anonymous hotline number for employees that allow them to report the alleged illegal activity.
Hotline for the OIG
The Office of Inspector General has set up a hotline where anonymous tips can be called in and reported. Their website indicates that your name will not be released without your consent unless they determine it to be unavoidable during the course of the investigation. The hotline is not simply to report abuse or fraud, but also to report if you believe you have been the victim of reprisal as a result of your whistleblowing.
There are actually a number of ways to contact the reporting hotline. Here are several:
- Call – 800-424-5197
- Email – Available at the OIG website
- Mail – Available at the OIG website
California Whistleblower Hotline Services
The state of California has passed its own version of the Whistleblower Protection Act and as such, allows their State Auditor to receive complaints about government conduct that may be illegal.
Any state employee, or private citizen may call the hotline to report such alleged illegal activity, including fraud and abuse within the State Medicare system. State employees who file a complaint are afforded protection under the law from retaliation. When using this or other whistleblower hotline services, detailed information regarding the alleged activity as well as witnesses or documentation must be provided in order for the complaint to be pursued. For example, general or vague accusations of illegal Medicare activity will most likely not be investigated, so it is a good idea to have as much supporting evidence as possible when calling or contacting the hotline.
Best Practices for Whistleblower Hotline
Most State and Federal agencies are not required to educate their employees about the use and availability of the hotline services. Many agencies hire and ombudsman to specifically investigate such complaints. The following is a list of ingredients in successful whistleblower hotline services:
- Public and Employee Education – If people don’t know the service exists, or how exactly it works, then they will not be likely to participate. Education should be done on a regular recurring basis.
- Confidentiality- Due to the nature of reporting, many people will fear that their identities will be released if come forward with a complaint. The promise of confidentiality is a must.
- Live Operators – Very few people are comfortable leaving their information on a recorded message. Staffing the hotline with live operators who are trained to interview callers is essential.
- 24/7 Availability – Employees who see illegal activity are not likely to make a call during work hours. They may desire to wait until they are in the security of their own home before doing so, to avoid being accidently overheard. Good hotlines, like the one run by the OIG are staffed with live operators 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Selecting an Employee Hotline Vendor
Whistleblower hotline services are offered by a number of different vendors around the country. If you are looking to set up your own hotline service with one such vendor, it is important to choose one with a track record of service, privacy and dependability. Make sure to choose a vendor with experience in the hotline industry. Remember, the success of your hotline depends on whether employees are confident in the ability of their complaint to be dealt with in a professional and private manner.