CHARLESTON – With the potential to return to taxpayers up to $90 million a year – funds that could be spent on needs such as road repair, in-home care for seniors and assistance for volunteer fire fighters – legislation to establish the False Claims Act is being fine tuned and will be reconsidered by the House Judiciary Committee later this week.
“The House leadership chose to send the false claims bill back to the Judiciary Committee because there was a great deal of concern expressed, however unfounded, about whether the bill would cause a wave of baseless lawsuits,” House Judiciary Chairman Tim Manchin. “I believe we can tweak some of the language to alleviate those concerns and move forward with a solid piece of legislation that will save millions of taxpayer dollars by fighting fraud and abuse.”
House Bill 4001 will establish the "False Claims and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014," which is designed to uncover and encourage the reporting of fraud that is being committed upon state government. It encourages the reporting of suspicious activity involving taxpayer funds and empowers the state Attorney General to investigate such fraud.
The bill incentives the reporting by a person, whether working in or outside state government, to bring a civil action in court against anyone who knowingly causes the state to pay a false claim. That private citizen would then share in the proceeds of any recovery.
“The reason 29 states and the District of Columbia have enacted false claims laws is it is a very simple method of combating fraud against the government,” Manchin said. “The concept dates back to the Civil War, and House Bill 4001 is closely modeled after the federal False Claims Act, which was first established in 1863.
“In 2012, federal and state false claims suits recovered $9 billion in taxpayer funds. We know that providing an incentive for people to come forward with information about fraud against the government works.”
Last week, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, former Kentucky Attorney General, filed similar whistleblower legislation. Research indicates the law could generate as much as $25 million a year for Kentucky, he noted.
By enacting false claims statutes, both West Virginia and Kentucky also could become eligible for 10 percent more funds recovered in instances of Medicaid fraud. Currently, the state receive up to about 30 percent of recovered funds, while states that have false claims statutes approved by the federal government receive up to about 40 percent.
“West Virginia taxpayers will benefit from this legislation, plain and simple,” Manchin said. “The only people who should be concerned about this bill are those who are cheating the taxpayers.”