The hospital industry is accustomed to far-fetched whistleblower claims: allegations that a hospital knowingly submitted false or fraudulent Medicare or Medicaid claims or fired a whistleblower for trying to prevent such activity. But in terms of far-fetched claims decided in January, whistleblower Jana Endicott wins the prize.
Jana was a nurse at Oakbend Medical Center, in Texas. She thought some of Oakbend’s IT personnel were working on company time for a private company owned by a husband and wife who also worked at Oakbend. That bothered her, so she complained. She got fired.
Jana filed a whistleblower action against Oakbend, claiming that Oakbend violated the False Claims Act (FCA) and fired her for complaining about it.
What were the alleged FCA violations? Jana’s saw it this way: “Medicare, Medicaid … provided a substantial amount of revenue to Oakbend,” so when Oakbend let employees work for somebody else on company time, it was wasting federal money and therefore violating the FCA.
If you can’t make the connection between wasting money and violating the FCA, you’re on the same wave length as Judge Nancy Atlas. She granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss. As she saw it, Jana’s complaint had the fatal flaw of failing to allege that Oakbend submitted any false claims. At most, Jana was alleging that the hospital wasted some of the money it had received through perfectly valid Medicare and Medicaid claims.
The case is Endicott v. Oakbend Med. Center, No. 4:16-cv-01835 (S.D. Tex., Jan. 30, 2017).).