New Whistleblower Law on Medicaid Fraud Signed Today by Governor of Georgia

I was excited to be invited to participate in today’s signing of the new Georgia “State False Medicaid Claims Act,” the newest state qui tam whistleblower law. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Edward Lindsey, asked this whistleblower lawyer blog author to join him and representatives of the Georgia Department of Community Health in the Governor’s Office for the signing ceremony.

Having worked with legislators on this bill, I was very happy to celebrate the law’s passage today:

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Participating in the signing ceremony with Governor Sonny Perdue were (shown above from left to right) Carrie Downing, Director of Legislative and External Affairs of the Georgia Department of Community Health; Dr. Rhonda Medows, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health; Inspector General Doug Colburn; Governor Perdue; Rep. Edward Lindsey, sponsor of the State False Medicaid Claims Act; whistleblower lawyer blog author Michael A. Sullivan of Finch McCranie, LLP; and Philip Consuegra, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Lindsey.

With an excellent draft bill already prepared by the State Law Department headed by Attorney General Thurbert Baker and his Senior Assistant AGs Mary Beth Westmoreland and Charlie Richards, I had provided input to Rep. Lindsey on clarifying and improving the bill, before the Legislature considered it. Inspector General Doug Colburn and I then made the rounds through the three legislative committee hearings to explain how the False Claims Act works, and how the new State False Medicaid Claims Act would operate in Georgia.

The new whistleblower law protects the State’s Medicaid funds by creating liability for “treble damages” (actual losses multiplied by three), and penalties of $5,500 to $11,000 for each false claim submitted to obtain payment by the State Medicaid Program. It also encourages private citizens who know of fraud in health care to file qui tam whistleblower cases, by permitting the whistleblower to share in up to 30% of the State’s recovery of money.

Georgia has joined more than 15 other states that have enacted laws to protect tax dollars used in state programs. New York and Oklahoma likewise enacted their own False Claims Act this year. Congress has encouraged states to pass similar whistleblower laws with provisions that are at least as effective as the federal False Claims Act–the states that do so will receive an extra 10% of Medicaid fraud recoveries (which works out to more than 10% when you do the math, which I will not fo here, but can explain if you email me).

To explain the new law to Georgia attorneys, our firm has already scheduled what will be a great seminar at the State Bar of Georgia Headquarters in Atlanta on September 20, 2007. We are excited that joining us is the leader of Texas’ already hugely successful effort to recover damages for Medicaid fraud, Pat O’Connell, the Chief of the Civil Medicaid Fraud Section of the Texas Office of Attorney General. We also have some other excellent speakers.

After today’s signing of the new Georgia False Medicaid Claims Act, Rep. Lindsey convinced the Governor to join us for another photo. Left to right are yours truly, Governor Perdue, Rep. Lindsey’s Assistant Philip Consuegra, and Rep. Edward Lindsey:

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Georgia taxpayers will benefit by this smart new tool that the Legislature has created. It should help deter those who would consider cheating the State Medicaid system by classic fraudulent methods such as over-billing, upcoding, and billing for services not rendered.

There is no reason why Georgia cannot replicate Texas’ successes in recovering large damages when, for example, drug companies overcharge or otherwise defraud the State. Many states have taken action against pharmaceutical companies over “off-label” marketing of drugs such as Zyprexa, to recover damages for their Medicaid programs.