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The Associated Press April 9, 2010, 6:05PM ET

Md. penalties for filing false health claims OK'd

Maryland lawmakers voted Friday to create civil penalties for people who make false health claims to help the state recover millions of dollars for health care.

The House of Delegates passed the bill 106-32. The Senate already has approved the legislation, which now goes to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who pushed for the measure and has indicated he will sign it.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown led the effort to broker a compromise with the Maryland Hospital Association, which opposed the bill last year. Defendants will be able to recover attorneys' fees and costs for any frivolous lawsuits.

The state estimates about $20 million in Medicaid could be recovered a year with the help of the legislation, which aims to stop fraudulent practices such as an insurance company filling out a form for a wheelchair for a fictitious patient.

The bill also would allow private citizens to file a lawsuit against people for making false claims. Between 15 and 25 percent of the money would go to whoever filed the lawsuit as part of a whistle-blower provision, but the case can't move forward without the state's consent.

"That's sort of a filter that filters out meritless or frivolous cases," Brown said.

The O'Malley administration said the legislation is needed because the state currently can do little to recover money lost through fraudulent claims, which

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted state false claims acts.

The Maryland General Assembly also approved an administration bill creating a Patient Centered Medical Home Program. The legislation directs the Maryland Health Care Commission to establish a program by January consisting of 50 practices and reaching 200,000 Marylanders.

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