Most qui tam cases are filed under the federal False Claims Act (FCA), which protects against fraud, waste, and abuse of federal monies. But what about fraud related to state government funds?
The federal False Claims Act is limited to federal funding, but some states and municipalities also have their own False Claims Acts to protect against theft and misuse of state and local money.
For example, there are two False Claims Acts in Georgia: the Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act, O.C.G.A. § 23-3-120 et seq., and the Georgia False Medicaid Claims Act, O.C.G.A. § 49-4-168 et seq.
If you suspect you have a claim and need more guidance on these topics, contact our Atlanta whistleblower attorneys. Until then, the following information serves as a good primer on Georgia’s FCAs.
The Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act
A minority of states have False Claims Acts that protect various state and local government funds. Frequently, these statutes are very similar to the federal False Claims Act, but they may include peculiarities as to what types of fraud fall under the statute, or what types of whistleblowers may bring these claims.
Moreover, state False Claims Act cases are filed in state court, rather than federal court, since there may not be any federal funds at issue.
The Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act (also known as the TPFCA or the Georgia False Claims Act) is one of the most unusual state False Claims Acts. To begin with, it is the broadest in the country in terms of the types of fraud it covers. The Georgia False Claims Act can be used for fraud against any state or local agency in Georgia, which is defined to include:
“…any state department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public benefit corporation, public authority, council, office, or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for this state,”
As well as:
“…any Georgia county, municipal corporation, consolidated government, authority, board of education or other local public board, body, or commission, town, school district, board of cooperative educational services, local public benefit corporation, hospital authority, taxing authority, or other political subdivision of the state or of such local government, including the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.”
Needless to say, the statute was drafted to cast as wide a net as possible to stop fraud against the state.
The Georgia False Claims Act also has its own retaliation statute, protecting whistleblowers who report fraud against any of the state or local government agencies. Since the state of Georgia does not have many of its own statutes offering protection for private employees, this is a valuable addition to the employment lawyer’s arsenal.
Permission Required to File Under the Georgia FCA
What makes the Georgia False Claims Act unique is that to file a case, you have to first get the permission of the Georgia Attorney General’s office. This includes both qui tam cases and retaliation claims.
The state is selective about what claims it will permit, and there is no time limit on how long it can take to decide whether to give you that permission. If you are hoping to file a lawsuit under the Georgia False Claims Act, it is thus vital that you retain a law firm with pre-existing relationships with the right government officials.
Government Employees Face Filing Restrictions
Another unusual aspect of the Georgia False Claims Act is that government employees – whether they be federal, state, or local employees – may not be relators. If the allegations are based upon wrongdoing that the employee had a duty to report or investigate as part of their employment, or if they learned of the fraud through their employment, they cannot be the whistleblower.
Although the purpose of this provision is to prevent government workers from seeking a windfall through the qui tam statute rather than performing their job duties, this can also backfire. The expansive definition of “government employee” in this context can ban lunch ladies and MARTA train conductors from reporting fraud by or against their programs.
Georgia False Medicaid Claims Act
The majority of states have their own Medicaid False Claims Acts to protect against fraud against their state Medicaid programs. These Medicaid FCAs, including Georgia’s, essentially mirror the federal False Claims Act but are limited to false claims submitted to Medicaid.
States were incentivized by the federal government to pass these statutes and form Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) to provide reinforcements for these fraud investigations. This is particularly important when a qui tam relator alleges a scheme of nationwide fraud, such as a pharmaceutical company providing kickbacks to medical providers throughout the country.
Instead of just the Department of Justice investigating everywhere at once, the labor can be divided amongst the different MFCU offices, which can investigate the fraud in their own states to their own Medicaid programs.
Because at least half of the funding for state Medicaid programs comes from the federal government, you can already bring a case of Medicaid fraud under the federal False Claims Act. This is usually the preferred method as these cases can be brought in federal court, reach other states and insurance programs, and harness the power of the federal government.
The federal courts can then exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state False Claims Act counts because they allege the same fraudulent activity.
Retain Competent Counsel Now
If you are aware of fraud or misuse of state funds, whether they are Medicaid or other state-funded programs, contact Bracker & Marcus LLC for a free consultation.
Although we are located in Georgia, New York, and Washington, D.C., each of which has its own state False Claims Act, we can bring cases in state or federal courts anywhere in the country. Call 770-988-5035 to begin today.