Carondelet whistleblower keeps fighting amid calls for better protections

Jacqueline Nash Bloink, the whistleblower who collected nearly $6 million for reporting overbilling by Arizona's Carondelet Health Network, isn't nestling into a lazy lifestyle financed by her share of the recovery. Instead, she's on a mission to help others fight fraud, the Arizona Star reported. Bloink is speaking to chapters of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and has offered to share her story with healthcare stakeholders. She also wrote an open letter to her community entitled "Healthcare fraud in our backyard."

"I intend to use my newly-obtained silver hair to try and help our healthcare system by being open about fraud and discussing ways to prevent it," Bloink told the newspaper.

Carondelet agreed to pay $35 million to settle allegations of billing federal programs improperly for undocumented inpatient rehabilitation services, as FierceHealthFinance reported. Bloink worked for Carondelet when she found the billing problems. The settlement was the largest payout under the federal False Claims Act in Arizona's history, the Star noted.

Elsewhere in Arizona, two whistleblowers who exposed the Phoenix Veteran's Administration patient scheduling scandal accepted new employment roles as part of an attempt "to make them whole," EHR Intelligence reported. This raises the question of how healthcare professionals can protect the integrity of care without risking their careers. More easily exercised protections for whistleblowers are necessary to achieve this, the article noted.

"Regardless of the type of whistleblowing, the employee's continued employment is always in jeopardy," a consultant told EHR Intelligence. "Stated laws 'protect' the whistleblower in words only. … The onus is always on the employee to exercise those protections if they are fired following whistleblowing, and that is not an easy or short process. Government agencies don't help the victim while they are out of a job."    

Moreover, whistleblowers are in an awkward spot if they report wrongdoing by those who are part of the government. One way to address this is providing whistleblowers with anonymity and imposing financial penalties on those who retaliate against complainants, EHR Intelligence added.  

For more:
- read the Arizona Daily Star article
- here's the EHR Intelligence article