Good news for whistleblowers! McKnight’s had an incredible story about a whistleblower case that resulted from comments made during a therapy provider’s public conference call in 2006. An audience member became suspicious, investigated the situation, found fraud, and then filed a whistleblower lawsuit. Remarks about a “therapist recruiting fee” on the public call did not sound right to Mark Essling, CEO of Health Dimensions Rehabilitation Inc.. Essling brought a False Claims Act lawsuit after spending about a year investigating the fees
The whistleblower filed against RehabCare who hosted the 2006 call. He alleged that RehabCare overbilled Medicare and Medicaid and paid more than $10 million in kickbacks after taking over therapy at Missouri nursing homes. Kindred Healthcare has owned RehabCare since 2011.
RehabCare argued that Essling should not qualify as a whistleblower because he based his suit on publicly available information. Only individuals identified by the False Claims Act, such as an attorney general, can sue a company based on public information. The defendants asked the judge to remove Essling from the action, which would then have proceeded with the government as plaintiff. His removal would have protected RehabCare from potentially paying Essling’s attorney fees.
Judge Audrey G. Fleissig denied RehabCare’s motion in a May 20 ruling. The “essential elements” of a fraud must be exposed publicly to trigger the public disclosure bar, and the government would not have understood this alleged fraud based only on RehabCare’s public disclosures, Fleissing wrote. Because Essling’s analysis of the information was needed to bring the case, he can remain a whistleblower plaintiff, the judge ruled.