Whistleblowers are deemed vital to making our health-care system safer

Live Science magazine has recently observed that whistleblowers have become critical in the fight to bring to light fraud in various segments of the health-care industry. It was noted that, just prior to his resignation announcement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sounded a clarion call encouraging more whistleblowers to come forward to help root out health-care fraud. There are indications of growing support for stronger government whistleblower laws aimed at unearthing health-care industry fraud and corruption while protecting the whistleblower from an employer's retaliation.

The fact that fraud and corruption are rampant in America's health-care industry is well known. Recently, many news stories on health-care fraud have focused on the actions of major pharmaceutical companies. For example, Forbes magazine has reported that, over the past decade, whistleblowers have exposed a "never-ending series of problems by numerous pharma companies" ranging from fraudulent research papers used to bolster marketing to the manufacture of contaminated and/or defective products.

Lately, Big Pharma has been accused of marketing a host of drugs for unapproved and life-threatening uses. Allegations have also come to light about bribery used by Big Pharma aimed at getting doctors and hospitals to use their products.

Whistleblower traits

Whether shedding light on the practices of Big Pharma, or pointing out Medicare and Medicaid fraud which costs this nation billions each year, whistleblowers are vital to helping protect American consumers of health care. Unfortunately, given the publicity surrounding Edward Snowden and his divulging of national security secrets, there is often a misconception as to the type of people whistleblowers are.

Salon magazine has observed that, contrary to stereotypes, the typical whistleblower is not a radical firebrand looking for a soapbox to stand on. Indeed, the average whistleblower is deeply loyal to his or her company or organization. While there are undoubtedly a few "type A" personality whistleblowers spoiling for a fight, the majority who speak up are merely trying to do the right thing and honor what they view as their professional responsibilities.

Ariane David, the author of an article appearing in the Graziadio Business Review, also refutes the typical stereotype of a whistleblower as being a rebellious corporate troublemaker. According to David, whistleblowers are among the best employees in an organization and tend to be highly altruistic. Many of them have been on the job for years and are highly respected by their superiors and their peers. Seeing fraud and corruption not being addressed by management motivates them to do "what is altruistically right." As a result, they speak out when they see a situation they view as illegal, unethical or potentially damaging either to the company they work for or to customers/consumers of the company's goods or services.

Not everyone who sees fraud or corruption will become a whistleblower. Only 30 percent of employees who discover wrongdoing ever disclose them. 70 percent become "silent observers" due to either a diminished perception of what is wrong or, more possibly, due to fear of retaliation from their employer.

Seek legal advice

If you have witnessed acts of fraud and corruption in the health-care industry, you should contact a California attorney experienced in handling whistleblower claims. The attorney will assist you in navigating the somewhat complex state and federal laws which offer whistleblowers protection against retaliation by employers.