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Community stands with doctor accused of Medicare billing fraud

You don’t have to drive very far from Austin to get into rural parts of Texas where doctors are few and far between. The scarcity of physicians in sparsely populated areas makes the doctors who are around worth their weight in gold to the people of the area.

Folks in Tennessee’s rural Carroll County are worried that the federal government is going to punish one of their only doctors for alleged Medicare fraud. Many of the 28,000 people or so in the county believe that the doctor made simple clerical errors and that no fraud took place. They hope that the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will reconsider its assessment of Dr. Bryan Merrick so that he can continue caring for Carroll County.

Merrick says the CMS claims took him by surprise. “I was shocked,” he said. “I had no idea these problems existed.”

CMS (the agency overseeing Medicare) says the problems are clear: Merrick billed the federal agency for 10 patients who were dead. The physician says some of those bills went out due to mistakes by a billing clerk, and that others involved patients who had recently been discharged from the hospital. He adjusted their meds and billed Medicare, not knowing they had just passed away.

Regardless, he said the total amount of the billing errors comes to $670. “No way” he would put his 30-plus years as a doctor on the line for $670, he says.

People in the area support him enthusiastically. In the article we read on his plight, two mayors and a pastor all bemoaned the possible loss of the physician and hope the government will reconsider any possible revocation of the doctor’s Medicare billing privileges. They know that most of his patients are on Medicare and dependent on him for health care.

Medical licenses are not only tremendously important to doctors, but also to the patients counting on them for treatment.

Licensing issues and medical board hearings can be complex matters best addressed with the assistance of an attorney experienced in license defense.