The last few years have seen some tremendous protections in the form of whistleblowing laws. In years past, whistleblowers have been subject to severe repercussions from within their organizations, leading to ostracism, intimidation and various economic hardships such as firing, being blacklisted, or being demoted. Now, laws are being passed to protect those who blow the whistle on fraud and abuse.
One of the areas most affected by whistleblowing laws is the Medicare Industry. Medicare fraud and abuse amounts to billions of taxpayer dollars being wasted each year. Often, those in a position to see the wrongdoing are afraid to say anything about it…especially when the fraud or abuse is being perpetrated within the Federal agencies overseeing Medicare.
Laws Protecting Whistleblowers
It is important to know what laws protect whistle blowers, so that you know your rights in regard to specific situations where you may be considering coming forward with information. The following whistleblowing laws provide specific protections for both Federal and corporate employees:
- The False Claims Act
Essentially, this law protects employees against retaliation that is a result of their whistleblowing. Currently, employees who feel they have been retaliated against have up to six years in which to file for a redress of grievances. The law imposes harsh penalties on corporations for taking retaliatory actions against such an employee, and requires restitution in the event that such action takes place.
- Whistleblower Protection Act
This law, passed in 1989 was designed to protect Federal employees who are witness to, or are aware of misconduct within a government agency and report such misconduct. The law does not require absolute proof, but allows for a “good-faith belief” that wrongdoing has occurred.
History of Whistleblowing Laws
Since as early as 1912 and the Lloyd-La Follette Act, the United States has been consistently increasing the protection given to whistleblowers. As the public becomes more aware of the need for government and cooperate accountability, many whistleblowers are experiencing nearly “rock-star” status. While some within various Federal or Corporate agencies would like to remove those protections, the laws serve an important purpose in empowering those who see the wrongdoing to have the freedom to report it.
Whistleblowing Laws by State
There is money to be made by whistleblowing. Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers receive anywhere from 15%-20% of the funds recovered; amounting to millions paid out each year.
With all of the money that the Federal Government has been recovering, (an average of $15 for every dollars spent on investigation and prosecution of qui tam cases alone) States are seeing a way to impact their bottom line as well. As a result, 28 states and the cities of New York and Chicago have also introduced their own versions of the False Claim Act.
Is Whistleblowing Healthy for Medicare?
With all of the money on the line, some might question whether Whistleblower policies are healthy for Medicare? After all, isn’t there just as much chance of false accusation in an effort to benefit financially? The answer is, yes; that is possible. However, claims must be investigated, and prosecuted successfully, and whistleblowers are not regularly known to be motivated by dishonesty. It is because of their historic place in helping keep Medicare as well as other agencies accountable that whistleblowing laws continue to be enacted and strengthened.