Posts Tagged ‘Elin Baklid-Kunz’

James Hoyer Client Wins Whistleblower of the Year Award

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At TAF Awards ceremony (Pictured L-R): James Hoyer Partner Elaine Stromgren, Elin Baklid-Kunz, Attorney Marlan Wilbanks

James Hoyer Managing Partner Chris Casper was proud to be local counsel, along with lead-counsel Marlan Wilbanks, for Elin Baklid-Kunz, whistleblower in the $86-million dollar Halifax Hospital settlement.  Elin was named the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund Whistleblower of the Year, at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Upon receiving the award, Elin expressed her sincere gratitude and talked about the often difficult road whistleblowers face to do the right thing.  She said her family and attorneys provided her with incomparable support to help her through the process.

Elin first came to America from Norway as an au pair to learn English and pursue the American dream.  She started working at Halifax in 1994 while pursuing her Masters of Business Administration at Stetson University.  She became Halifax’s Compliance Officer in 2005 and was promoted to Director of Physician Services for Halifax Health Systems in 2008.

As Director of Physician Services, Elin became concerned that Halifax was making improper payments to doctors for referrals, in violation of the Stark Law.  The Stark Law is intended to prevent incentives to doctors which could entice them to make referral decisions based upon financial gain, instead of the patient’s best interest.  Elin also encountered an internal report that indicated Halifax neurosurgeons were performing medically unnecessary surgeries and admitting patients who did not meet admissions criteria.  This led to what she believes were millions of dollars in fraudulent charges to Medicaid and Medicare.   After reporting her concerns to Halifax and having them fall upon deaf ears, Elin felt she had no choice but to file a False Claims Act case on behalf of U.S. taxpayers.

Elin was presented the Whistleblower of the Year award by Cheryl Meads, whistleblower in the $96 million case against GlaxSmithKline which settled in 2010.  Meads commended Elin for her action and  not just standing by when American taxpayers were being defrauded and patients were being harmed.  She ended with a quote from Bobby Kennedy saying, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

We applaud Elin for doing her part to stand on the right side of history.

 

Halifax Hospital Partially Settles Whistleblower Case for $85 Million

Halifax Hospital agreed to pay a record-setting $85 million to settle part of a whistleblower case pending against the company.  The James Hoyer Law Firm serves as local counsel in the case, along side the Wilbanks & Bridges Law Firm in Atlanta.  As reported in the Orlando Sentinel, the lawsuit alleges Medicare fraud and more than a decade of illegal kickbacks to doctors.

The “agreement in principle” requires that Halifax pay the settlement amount over a period of five years.

In addition, Halifax must agree to a corporate integrity and compliance program “to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen in the future,” said the court transcript.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2009 by Halifax Health employee Elin Baklid-Kunz, a former compliance officer for the 678-bed Daytona Beach hospital, where she is still employed.

The suit was filed under the federal False Claims Act which allows private citizens to file suit on behalf of taxpayers, when fraud against the government is suspected.  As a result, the bulk of the $85 million will be returned to the public coffers.  Baklid-Kunz will receive 15 percent to 25 percent of the award, for bringing the fraud to the government’s attention, as provided under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act.

The second part of this case is slated to go to trial in July.  Those charges involve allegations that Halifax Hospital inappropriately admitted patients to their emergency room and then billed Medicare and Medicaid for their care.  That portion of the case could result in damages and penalties of up to $400 million.

UPDATE:  Halifax agreed to settle the second portion of the case for $1 million in July of 2014.

Click on the video below to watch a report by WFTV in Orlando about the settlement.