Hyatt gives up his seat on state Medical Board amid Medicaid billing questions

Rogers psychiatrist at center of state, federal investigations

FILE — Dr. Brian Hyatt shows the additional access safety door in one of the medical psychiatric rooms at Northwest Medical Center in Springdale in this March 13, 2018 file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

BENTONVILLE -- A Rogers psychiatrist has resigned his seat on the Arkansas State Medical Board.

"I am not resigning because of any wrongdoing on my part, but so that the board may continue its important work without delay or distraction," Dr. Brian Hyatt said in his May 16 resignation letter. "I will continue to defend myself in the proper forum against the false allegations being made against me."

Hyatt stepped down in March as board chairman but maintained a seat on the board.

He said in his letter the board serves a vital role for the public and for physicians.

"Due to personal matters that have nothing to do with the board, I believe it is my best interest and in the best interest of the board to tender my resignation at this time," Hyatt said in the resignation letter. "I feel that my continued participation in future board meetings may be a distraction from the board's duties and its primary focus, and at this time, I am not able to give the time and attention needed for board matters."

Hyatt has been the center of investigations by state and federal authorities.

Clay Fowlkes, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, confirmed Wednesday agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration searched Hyatt's office in Rogers.

Last month, Attorney General Tim Griffin announced Northwest Arkansas Hospitals LLC agreed to pay the state more than $1 million in connection with 246 Medicaid claims 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 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."

Hyatt resignation letter