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Here are 10 good tips from Lynn Shapiro Snyder, an attorney with Epstein, Becker & Green in Washington, DC, for you to follow if you’re ever faced with a lawsuit by a False Claims Act whistleblower:
1. Handle that knock at the door properly. Educate employees about what to do should a federal or state government investigator literally show up at their home asking questions about the practice.
2. Document contractor advice/contacts. Document any advice you get from Medicare contractors. Make sure billing personnel keep a log of all contacts with government agencies and fiscal intermediaries/carriers, including a notation of whether the contact was oral or written.
3. Contact former employees. If the whistleblower is a former employee, contact other former employees who might have had contact with the whistleblower for any information about the potential allegations, and ask if they will agree to notify you should they be contacted by the government.
4. Get human resources into the act. Train your HR personnel or office manager to help identify disgruntled employees who leave the company and who might have a "compliance ax to grind," and teach HR to be sensitive to the idea that a "righteous indignation resignation" might be a sign of future trouble, says Snyder.
5. Focus on the allegations. Don’t spend all your time trying discredit the whistleblower to the government (even if that may be justified). Instead, work to show the allegations have no merit.
6. Get everyone on board. Once the government intervenes, make sure they and the whistleblower have come to their own agreement about the relator’s share of any settlement. This can speed up your negotiations with federal agents.
7. There’s no such thing as too much compliance training. Make your office compliance training "frequent, fun, and informative," says Snyder. Also, strive to ensure that it covers the latest hot topics in compliance.
8. Learn about the settlement process. Read an entire set of settlement documents to familiarize yourself with the various options involved in the process. Ask yourself, "How would I have handled that situation?"
9. Don’t be myopic. Pay attention to the types of settlements — or have your lawyer do it — to identify areas where your practice may be most vulnerable, then upgrade your compliance efforts accordingly.
10. Use pre-employment agreements. Have new providers and other employees who deal with sensitive financial and claims-related information sign a written employment agreement waiving their rights to a financial recovery if they file a whistleblower lawsuit. Warning: This kind of agreement may not be enforceable in some states.