BENTONVILLE -- Federal authorities on Tuesday searched the office of a Rogers psychiatrist who stepped down as chairman of the Arkansas State Medical Board in March, a U.S. attorney said.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration searched Dr. Brian Hyatt's office, according to Clay Fowlkes, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.
Fowlkes said the investigation is ongoing and he could not provide any other information. He said the execution of a search warrant is an important step in a lengthy, ongoing investigation.
Hyatt was chairman of the Medical Board until he stepped down March 2.
Last month, Attorney General Tim Griffin announced that Northwest Arkansas Hospitals LLC had agreed to pay the state more than $1 million in connection with 246 Medicaid claims that were based on medical evaluations, diagnoses and supporting documentation certified by Hyatt and nonphysician providers working under his control and supervision.
The settlement came after an audit by a state contractor, the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, found that documentation provided for the claims "did not justify or support the medical necessity requirement for hospitalizations," Griffin said in a news release announcing the settlement.
All payments for Medicaid services to Hyatt were suspended by the Office of Medicaid Inspector General, according to a Feb. 24 letter the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The office determined there was a "credible allegation of fraud" against Hyatt.
A Pulaski County circuit judge granted a search warrant for Hyatt's phone records Jan. 17.
The attorney general's office was contacted in April 2022 by a whistleblower from the behavioral health unit of Northwest Medical Center-Springdale, according to the warrant affidavit.
Hyatt had been the medical director of the unit since January 2018. His contract with the medical center was "abruptly terminated" in May 2022, the affidavit states.
Investigators with the attorney general's office watched hundreds of hours of surveillance video from the behavioral unit and didn't see Hyatt enter a patient's room or make direct contact with a patient, the affidavit states.
According to the affidavit, "red flags" were identified during an analysis of Hyatt's Medicaid claims and use of evaluation and management coding, which is used to bill medical services.
"Subsequent hospital care" codes like 99231, 99232 and 99233 are the most commonly billed codes, each paying a progressively higher rate, according to the affidavit. More complicated cases with patients who are unstable or are developing a new problem are indicated by a 99233 code, the affidavit states.
Between January 2019 and June 30, 2022, Hyatt billed more Medicaid patients at the 99233 code than any other doctor billed for all of their Medicaid patients, the affidavit states.
Criminal charges haven't been filed against Hyatt.
Then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Hyatt to the Medical Board in January 2019. Hyatt was later elected chairman. His current term on the board was to expire Dec. 31, 2024.
Several lawsuits have been filed against Hyatt in recent months. One suit, filed last month in Washington County Circuit Court, accuses him and other defendants of unlawfully holding patients in Northwest Medical Center-Springdale's behavioral health unit "in order to fraudulently bill their private health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or other applicable insurance coverage for alleged care and treatment that was not provided."