Congratulations, Washington! The Washington State legislature has just sent a bill (SB 5978) to Governor Gregoire’s desk amending the State’s Fraudulent Practices Act, RCW 74.09.10, to enlist private whistleblowers in the State’s efforts to save taxpayer dollars. SB 5978 — though confined to Medicaid fraud only — is modeled after the Federal FCA which encompasses a wider universe of government contracting fraud.
Like most other state Medicaid false claims acts, Washington’s SB 5978 (a) authorizes whistleblowers to bring claims in the name of the government against individual or corporate fraudsters; (b) provides for whistleblower awards of between 15 and 30 percent of the government’s recovery; and (c) extends anti-retaliation relief — via Section 209 — to whistleblowers harmed by employers or others who retaliate. Employees and independent contractors who are demoted, discharged, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against by anyone in the terms and conditions of employment in response to their efforts to blow the whistle can sue separately for lost wages, reinstatement, attorney fees and litigation costs.
Because of political opposition mobilized by health care interests, Washington’s Medicaid FCA will sunset at the end of 2016 unless renewed at that time. As whistleblower attorneys know, four years is a very short time in the life of a False Claims Act case. It’s not uncommon for such cases to drag on for a decade or more. Washington whistleblowers: The clock is ticking. Better file quickly!