The James Hoyer law firm is 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 on Tuesday, in 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 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.