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Ex-hospital officials claim whistleblowing led to firing

October 12, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Two former executives of one of Alaska’s largest hospitals claim they lost their jobs for trying to stop illegal billing practices and raising other concerns.

The former officials first filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit against the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium after they lost their jobs in 2016, the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday. They filed an amended complaint this summer.

Joan Wilson, the former chief ethics and compliance officer, and Dr. Paul Franke, the former chief medical officer, claim the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage operated by the consortium double-billed for certain drugs and improperly billed for services delivered by ineligible providers.

The consortium and hospital “took no action to return funds received as a result of the improper billing” after they flagged the problems, according to the lawsuit.

“These practices are still occurring today,” they claim in the suit.

The tribal health organization said the complaints are not true.

“Our staff and outside auditors routinely and thoroughly review our billing practices to ensure compliance and correct any inadvertent errors that are found,” the consortium said in a statement.

Attorneys for the consortium declined say why Wilson and Franke lost their jobs, noting the organization stands by its personnel decisions.

The two former executives had initially wanted a federal jury to hear the case and award damages to the U.S. government. The Justice Department declined to intervene.

“The Department of Justice had the allegations for 18 months and declined to take the case,” the consortium said.

They filed an amended complaint in August, dropping fraud allegations and focusing on wrongful termination claims.

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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