Will Pennsylvania be next?
A $2.2 billion dollar recovery can make a person think. Hopefully, some of those people are in the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Recently, the Department of Justice announced a huge settlement under the Federal False Claims Act regarding the off-label marketing of a drug produced by Johnson and Johnson.
The biggest state without a False Claims Act of any kind is Pennsylvania and some legislators there are making noise about the problem. They have been working since June to get a new False Claims Law enacted by the State.
According to the Pennsylvania Record the prime sponsors of a proposed False Claims law are renewing the push for its enactment in light of such large recent False Claims Settlements:
State Rep. Brandon Neuman, a Democrat representing Washington County, and fellow Democratic legislator Tony DeLuca of Allegheny County introduced in early June House Bill 1493, a state version of the federal False Claims Act …
… In a Tuesday news release, Neuman said Monday’s $2.2 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceutica, would have “significant ramifications” for Pennsylvania.
Neuman said his bill would provide the necessary tools for the commonwealth to recover the “maximum amount possible from those who cheat or attempt to cheat the government.”
The proposed legislation is modeled on the Federal False Claims Act and includes funding for the State Attorney General to implement it. It would allow for individuals to file a case regarding health care or other kinds of fraud committed against the State of Pennsylvania and obtain a share of any recovery the State collects.
There are now a majority of states with their own False Claims Acts and as a result those states have a mechanism for fighting fraud Pennsylvania does not.
Of course, I am hopeful that Pennsylvania will join the group of states with their own False Claims Act laws. It only makes sense. Pennsylvania would also be in a stronger position to join in with the federal government in major cases involving nationwide schemes of fraud if the State had its own law. Additionally, it could collect funds when a case is filed regarding a fraud specific to Pennsylvania. As the prime sponsor of the legislation wrote:
Without our own false claims law in place, Pennsylvania has no way to adequately protect the billions of hard-earned Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars that are spent every year on education, public safety, job creation, road construction, and many other critical programs.
One would think given the success enjoyed by other states and the federal government in using the law to fight fraud this would be an easy vote for the Pennsylvania state legislature. Admittedly, there are powerful interests who want to protect those who would do business by committing fraud against the government. But in the light of day, who wants to be on the side of protecting those kinds of businesses? Pennsylvania has an opportunity to pass this important legislation and protect its citizens. Let’s hope they do.
My sincere appreciation goes out to the great people of Taxpayer’s Against Fraud for pointing out these events in some recent postings and, of course, my congratulations also goes to the Relators and their lawyers involved in the recent Johnson and Johnson case.