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Rogers psychiatrist accused of false imprisonment, Medicaid fraud of patients

Dr. Brian T. Hyatt, formerly the chairman of the state medical board, has stepped down after allegations of large-scale Medicaid fraud.

SPRINGDALE, Arkansas — A psychiatrist has stepped down from his role as chair of the Arkansas State Medical Board after he was accused of large-scale Medicaid fraud.

Dr. Brian T. Hyatt, formerly the chairman of the state medical board, said in an email on March 1, 2023, that he would like to "step aside" as chairman and "move to a non-executive committee, voting member... until standing issues resolve."

Dr. Hyatt was appointed by former governor Asa Hutchinson in 2019, according to his practice's website bio. 

Alleged Medicaid fraud

The Office of Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) sent a letter to Dr. Hyatt on Feb. 24, 2023, stating that allegations of Medicaid fraud that were made against him were deemed credible. OMIG said that Medicaid services performed by Dr. Hyatt were suspended.

On Jan. 14, 2023, an investigator with the Attorney General's office filed documents after investigating Dr. Hyatt for Medicaid fraud. According to the documents, Dr. Hyatt had billed more Medicaid recipients using the highest code than any other doctor had billed for all of their patients in the state.

Out of the three codes to bill Medicaid, code 99233 was typically only billed by providers for the most unstable patients with significant complications, which also called for more money from the government to treat them. 

The investigation notes that between Jan. 1, 2019, and May 2022, 99.95% of Dr. Hyatt's claims for Medicaid were billed under the highest code.

For reference, the document states that between that same timeframe, on average nationally, only about 21% of Medicaid billing was for the highest code.

The Attorney General's office says that after speaking with employees who worked for Dr. Hyatt, they were told by Hyatt to always bill the highest code with each patient.

There was also evidence, the investigator says, that Dr. Hyatt had sent a patient to collections for not paying for services not paid fully by Medicaid, stating in their notes "it is Medicaid fraud to try to collect any unpaid amount from a Medicaid recipient."

While going over months of surveillance video of the behavioral unit while Hyatt was the director there, the investigator said that after reviewing hundreds of hours and several days of footage, at no point did they see Dr. Hyatt enter a patient's room or have contact with a patient, only him walk up and down the hall.

Lawsuits alleging false imprisonment

Dr. Hyatt became the medical director of the behavior unit at Northwest Medical Center in Springdale from Jan. 2018 until May 2022 when his contract was "abruptly terminated by the hospital," the investigation states.

During that time, a lawsuit was filed against Dr. Hyatt and the hospital, claiming that a woman who had accidentally overdosed on Tylenol was sedated on her way to the behavioral hospital and forced to sign documents she claimed she couldn't even read or understand at the time.

The lawsuit alleges that after arriving at the behavioral unit, she expressed to employees that she wanted to leave but was told that if she tried to leave they would take her to court to get her to stay longer because "the judge always sided with Dr. Hyatt."

The woman says that when she arrived, Dr. Hyatt's name was marked out with a sharpie on her wristband and that all employees either didn't have name tags or their name tags only listed their first names.

A few days after arriving at the behavioral unit, the woman's mother called Aaron Cash to be her lawyer. 

“Her allegations are that because she asked to leave, she was threatened to stay longer, that a judge would make her stay longer if she did not consent to stay longer. She was never taken before a judge by Northwest or by Dr. Hyatt. So her allegations are that she was coerced into staying there," Cash said.

Soon, the lawsuit alleges, a judge issued a court order to require Northwest Medical to release the woman. 

The woman's mother claims that when she went back to Northwest with the court order, she was denied by employees. Dr. Hyatt reportedly had gone to the woman's room that day and said "he and Northwest would see her lawyer in court and that when she lost in court she would never be able to get a job," the lawsuit alleges.

The judge later that day then ordered the Washington County Sheriff's Office to remove the woman from the hospital. Dr. Hyatt, along with other employees in the behavioral unit, were accused of false imprisonment, battery and assault.

Cash said his client was released and he's representing another client with similar claims.

“A month and a half or so later, same doctor in the same place. And then there's also another individual represented by someone else who was also released under the same circumstances in Washington County. Similar circumstances, same doctor, and same hospital," Cash said.

In the Medicaid fraud investigation, a confidential informant who reportedly worked under Dr. Hyatt said that they were instructed by Dr. Hyatt to mark out his name on the patient's wristbands after they were admitted. There had even been a sign posted in the hospital that instructed staff to mark out his name, the investigation said.

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