Rogers doctor facing Medicaid fraud charges

A Rogers psychiatrist who resigned his seat on the Arkansas State Medical Board earlier this year was arrested Monday in connection with two felony counts of Medicaid fraud, according to online court records.

Rogers police arrested Brian Thomas Hyatt, 49. He was being held in the Benton County Jail on Monday for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office with no bond set, according to online jail records.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin issued a statement saying Hyatt’s arrest came after a Pulaski County District Court judge signed an arrest warrant from Griffin’s office.

“My office has made arrangements with Dr. Hyatt’s attorney for Hyatt to appear in Pulaski County for a bail hearing later this month,” Griffin said.

The court filings Monday morning didn’t include a formal charging document from prosecutors providing details related to the charges. The affidavit used to obtain the arrest warrant was also not available.

Hyatt resigned his seat on the Arkansas State Medical Board in May. He stepped down as board chairman in March, but had maintained a seat on the board.

Hyatt denied being involved in any wrongdoing in his letter of resignation.

“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,” 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 has been the center of investigations by both state and federal authorities this year.

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

In March, Griffin announced that Northwest Arkansas Hospitals had 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.

That 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 affidavit used to obtain that search warrant.

Hyatt had been the medical director of the unit since January 2018. His contract with the medical center was “abruptly terminated” in May 2022, according to the affidavit.

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, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit states a number of “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 in the state billed for all of their Medicaid patients, the affidavit states.

Then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Hyatt to the Medical Board in January 2019.

Several civil lawsuits have been filed against Hyatt. One suit, filed in March 2023 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.”