Maryland is moving in the right direction in the fight against Medicaid fraud. The Maryland Senate approved the Maryland False Claims Act of 2010 (Maryland Senate Bill 279). The new False Claims Act will allow the state to track and punish individuals and health care providers attempting to defraud low-income resident Medicaid programs run by the state. Included in the bill are provisions that permit a whistleblower to alert state investigators about fraudulent actions, and allow the whistleblower to collect a portion of any damages recovered by the state. The Maryland False Claims Act of 2010 passed by a vote of 37-8 in the Senate. Similar legislation is pending in the House.
However, the Maryland False Act presents limitations for whistleblowers in bringing lawsuits against health care providers without intervention by the state. As a result, Maryland’s False Claims Act does not comply with Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 guidelines. This technicality reduces the state’s (and the whistleblower’s) ability to receive a larger percentage of any recovered damages.
Legal Blogger, Richard Renner, calls the Act "watered down" in his post Maryland Senate passes watered-down state False Health Claims Act. He outlines key areas that could have strengthened the Act and questions whether the hospital administrators are important to the Maryland Senate or protecting taxpayer dollars.
Passage of the Maryland False Claims Act came after a series of amendments that received the backing of the Maryland Hospital Association, which opposed the bill last year. The Hospital Association did not want whistleblowers to be able to bring a case on their own if the state decided not to pursue it. Their goal for the bill was to only go after "true fraud" not mistakes.
Last year efforts to pass the false claims act bill failed by one vote, largely because of vocal opponents. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's persistence paid off this year, with the Maryland Senate voting for this legislation the same day President Barack Obama signed an overhaul of the nation's health care system.
"This reform targets those who cheat our system and steal Medicaid dollars that belong to those most in need," Brown said in a statement.
Click on the following links to read more on the Maryland False Claims Act 2010:
Maryland Senate Bill 279: Maryland False Health Claims Act of 2010
Maryland Senate approves civil penalties for making a false health claim - Washington Examiner
Lt. Governor Brown Statement Applauding Senate Passage of Maryland False Health Claims Act
- Press Release
Maryland Senate approves the false medicaid Claims Bill - Baltimore Business Journal