What Does President's Signing of Healthcare Reform Bill Mean for Whistleblowers?

Love it or hate it, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, was passed on March 21 by the 111th Congress and signed by President Obama yesterday to thunderous applause and scattered cat-calls. The President called it “a new season for America.”

Opponents quickly began a campaign to “repeal and replace,” according to a story in today’s Washington Post. Thirteen states have joined in a lawsuit to block the new law with sentiments like this one voiced by Alabama Attorney General Troy King:

“We will remind Congress and the federal government that they are not the ultimate source of authority in this country.–The Constitution says so, not me.” — Alabama Attorney General Troy King.

Grandstanding might aptly describe such hyberbolic statements on both sides of the debate. But amidst all the noise about healthcare reform, few are discussing or even aware of the details of the actual bill. As far as healthcare whistleblowers are concerned, these key changes among others written into the new law warrant mentioning:

Retaliation for Healthcare Whistleblowers.
Under Section 1558, workers who report healthcare violations to an employer, Federal Government, or a state Attorney General are protected from retaliation, including reporting violations of the new laws prohibiting denial of coverage based upon preexisting conditions. Such whistleblowers will recieve remedies similar to those found in the federal False Claims Act, including among other things: reinstatement, back pay, special damages, and attorney’s fees.

Special Whistleblower Requirements for Long-Term Care Facilities.
Officers, employees, managers, and contractors of long term-care facilities that receive more than $10,000 in federal funding annually are required to report reasonable suspicion of a crime to law enforcement and can be fined up to $200,000 for failure to do so. Retaliation against whistleblowers in such facilities are subject to a fine of up to $200,000 and exclusion from federal funds for up to two years.

Special Whistleblower Requirements for Nursing Homes.
Under Section 6105, nursing homes are required to implement standardized complaint forms and each state is required to develop a complaint resolution process to track and investigate nursing home complaints and protect against whistleblower retalitation.

FraudBlawg will continue to review and analyze the bill and provide updates about important changes in the law effecting healthcare whistleblowers.

To report heatlhcare fraud, contact Frohsin & Barger.