In February, 2006, President Bush signed into law the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA). An obscure provision within this Act mandates that entities receiving greater than $5 million per year in Medicaid payments must educate their employees about “whistleblower” claims under the Federal False Claims Act. Under the DRA, effective January 1, 2007, as a requirement of continued eligibility for the receipt of Medicaid payments, any entity receiving annual payments of $5 million or more in Medicaid funds must have mandatory compliance and education programs in place for its employees to provide detailed information about the Federal False Claims Act. This education must include information provided to employees about administrative remedies, state laws pertaining to civil or criminal penalties, whistleblower protections, and the role of such laws in preventing and detecting fraud, waste, and abuse in federally funded healthcare programs.
Congress has clearly recognized that the government has a strong need to contain costs through increased fraud and abuse enforcement. Medicaid spending, like Medicare spending, is exponentially increasing. Medicaid enrollment increased from ten (10) million beneficiaries in 1967 to over 44.7 million beneficiaries in 2006 according to statistics published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Along with this increase in beneficiaries, Medicaid expenditures have also dramatically increased. In fiscal year 2005 Medicaid expenditures approximated twenty percent (20%) of total federal outlays.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in its fiscal year report for 2005 documented that $484.3 billion had been spent in the fiscal year 2005. Given this staggering amount of money, and because the percentage of the total federal outlay was expected to exceed twenty percent (20%) of the total federal budget, Congress enacted the mandatory employee education provisions about false claims recovery to encourage whistleblower lawsuits and, hopefully, thereby decrease fraud and abuse.
In addition to providing written policies for all employees, the mandatory policies and compliance programs must include detailed provisions regarding the employer’s policies and procedures for detecting and preventing fraud, waste and abuse. The written policies must include a specific discussion of federal and applicable state False Claims Acts, and the rights of employees to be protected from retaliation as whistleblowers. Ironically, as of the effective date of this provision, there is no state False Claims Act in Georgia. This is very discouraging. Nonetheless, this too may change depending upon the actions of the Georgia Legislature when it meets in 2007.
Section 6031 of the Deficit Reduction Act encouraged the enactment of state False Claims Acts by providing financial incentives for states to enact laws dealing with false or fraudulent claims (specifically including Medicaid claims) that parallel the federal False Claims Act. All states that enact state False Claims Acts are eligible for a ten percent (10%) increase in their share of Medicaid fraud recoveries. Many states have already availed themselves of this opportunity to participate in an increase share of Medicaid fraud recoveries but Georgia has yet to pass such legislation. Whether it will do so, of course, depends upon Governor Perdue and the Republican controlled State House and Senate.
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