Hundreds of Alabama Pain Center Patients Attend Meeting On Possible Closure

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – It was standing room only for a meeting about the possible closure of the Alabama Pain Center on Tuesday night.

In all 2,800 people could be without a doctor come next month if the clinic is forced to close their doors.

Dr. Dean Willis, the Chief Medical Officer and Founder of the Alabama Pain Center, said in a news release the Alabama Pain Center will be forced to close its doors on November 15 as a result of the audit, which suspended Medicare payments to the pain clinic in late August.

Patients of Alabama Pain Center were invited to a meeting at Trinity United Methodist Church for an update to the ongoing audit of Alabama Pain Center’s Medicare accounts on Tuesday.

Willis said that like many large medical practices, 80 percent of the clinic’s revenues come from Medicare payments.  Alabama Pain Center currently employs 124 staff and provides care for over 2,700 patients on a regular basis.

Alabama Pain Center did file a rebuttal to the decision to suspend Medicare payments in September, which resulted in some claims against the clinic to be dropped, but not the suspension of Medicare payments.

Dr. Willis said that he will continue to appeal this decision, but that process could take up to 14 months.  The clinic, however, only has enough money in reserve to operate through November.

“We are bitterly disappointed that this action by CMS and AdvanceMed will force our clinic to close resulting in the inability for our patient’s to receive the care they need.  For over 20 years the one goal of the Alabama Pain Center has been to provide the highest quality state of the art treatments for the thousands of patients who have come to us for help from across our region.  It is heartbreaking that this action will no longer allow us to achieve that goal,” said Willis.

Willis said that an appeal is being prepared based on the danger to life and health that the closure of his practice presents to patients.  He cited that Alabama Pain Center is one of a very few providers in the country that can provide Medicare patients with implantable pain pump therapies.

The clinic currently provides pain pump care to 322 patients, which are among the most severe of chronic pain sufferers, according to Willis.

“It is still my hope and my prayer that someone at CMS will put the needs of these patients first,” said Dr. Willis.  “These patients truly are our family and it is heartbreaking to our entire staff that a misguided bureaucratic review like this can needlessly cause them such pain and suffering.  As always we welcome any audit or review and will participate willingly just as we have done for each of the seven previous reviews.  Our desperate plea is for Medicare to allow us to continue the excellent care we have been providing for these past 26 years while this review continues.”

44 comments

  • Money hungry doctors

    I go to a pain management dr and I can say one thing for sure they don’t care one bit about the patients just more $ drug pushers with a license that’s all Procedures and therapy is a big ripoff if the dr cares so much for these people ( family ) why don’t he stay open without making all that $ 2700 patients u can afford it. How many millions do u rack in a year. How much $ is these drs getting from the drug makers to push the meds. They don’t care about your pain or try to even help u just write u a script charge u per visit drug tests treatments so they call it and other useless tests that cost a fortune. But like I said if this place cares so much about the patients let the dr use some of his $ for a change no he just cares cause he can’t overcharge all the insurance. And these people call there selfs doctors. What a rip off sorry SOBs is all so u close your doors guess u can go enjoy all those millions u ripped off

    • Dorrie Neveau

      Think about how difficult it is to operate a business with no income coming in for ten months. You keep working, but don’t get paid. Clearly you are misinformed about the “greed” of pain doctors. Sure, there are some doctors who are greedy, but any reasonable person expects to be paid for their services. I am sorry that your experience with a pain doctor has been so negative, and hope you find relief for your issues.

      • mt

        Maybe it will be a good follow up story on how Dr Willis is forgetting too callscripts in for patients pain meds and how they are sittin at home now in severe.pain til monday. These are the times I hope Willis gets put in jail so bubba will show him some pain

    • NannyOf1

      To money hungry doctors: APC has been there for my husband for a couple of years now, I can honestly say they DO care, they work with their patients to get them back into society, as for APC they have financial assistance, My husband has been to other pain clinics and all the others wanted to do was push meds, or cut on him. Dr. Willis and his staff do care dearly for their patients, this will be a great loss for 2700 patients. as for you claiming all they do is push meds, my husband is only on two meds, he is drug tested often to make sure is he NOT abusing them,

    • jcl

      I see you have experienced the “other” pain treatment centers handling of patients. Obviously you haven’t been treated at the AL Pain Center. Good luck in finding the pain treatment care you deserve.

    • pain pump saved my life

      i thought the same thing about place like the APC was just pill pushers to . till i went there. i went to so many different drs tryin to figure out what was goin on with my back even tho im only 38 all the other drs just thought i just want pills whick far from the truth i just needed help with the pain. with in two yrs dr willis had me back on my feet sooner then i could of ever happened. i have a very rare bone disorder that very an very few drs know anything about so dr willis was god sent to his patients and me . i have had over 11 surgerys to the bones in my legs. one leg inch n half shorter then the other three disk in my back dead so yes what dr willis and his team does for all of us gave our lives back to us as close to normal as possible . so until you have been to the APC instead of the other pain managements that dont care you to will see the biggest difference. plus the special mixture of meds for these pumps are not done no where else in the state. dr willis is know world wide for his work and studys on this treatment so know your facts so you wont look so uneducated ok

    • Travis Bridges

      I so tired of hearing “I’m chronic pain management” just junkies looking for a new med, or doctor who will give in and write scripts for them. these people will do anything to keep getting a legal high and grin about it . shameful these prescription junkies , they are sometimes worse than
      street addicts.

    • Kimberly

      Every Doctor, nurse, receptionist on down have been very efficient in carrying out all forms to comply. I thank them for giving me a quality of life with my back problems so I could work. They even saw me when my insurance ran out. If I did not get the shots in my back along with the proper medicine I don’t think I could work. Doctors have so many bills besides the obvious that have to be considered in patient care. My question who will help all of us who need help?

  • Michael Kewl

    May none of us ever need such a clinc’s services, BUT if you have ever had a family member in the unrententing misery of constant pain, then be thankful for the Alabama Pain Clinic!!!

  • Dorrie Neveau

    If it had not been for Dr. Willis and his caring staff, my husband, who is self employed, would have been out of work for a significant amount of time this past August. As it was, the inability of my husband to work caused a financial hardship on our family. Taking care of patient’s is so much more than just relieving his/her pain, it’s about allowing the patient to return to work and provide for his or her family!

  • john clardy

    I am on pain mangment in boaz and i agree a doct does not care about you your just another 100 dllr bill to them.They are just a drug pusher with a licence.What kills me is when they send you to all these specl.when they can treat you thier selves.Its a big money racket.

  • Ann

    i don’t care about blame. what is to become of the patients that depend on them? that is the main question as far as i am concerned.

  • doug

    I was once a patient of Dr. Willis, before you accuse him of being greedy, let me say that I am a chronic pain sufferer and he treated me at his own expense, that went into the thousands of dollars because I didn’t have any medical insurance. I told him that I probably would not ever be able to pay him and he didn’t stop caring for me. Before you judge someone, some times it appears that they are being greedy when they are trying to do everything that they can for the patient.

  • Bob P

    As the husband of a current patient of the Covenant Health Centers, I take offence at the ‘pill pusher’ comments. This is one place where you WON’T find ‘pill pushers’. This is a TRUE pain management facility. Tratment with drugs is only a very small part of the program. In fact, there are many people, that take no pills at all.
    Please become informed before you comment. In the end, all you are doing is showing that you need to get into a better program. It sounds like you could really be better served there. If the Covenant Health Centers close, it’s going to be hard to for you find the proper place for you to get help. Let’s hope someone figures out the right thing to do, so you will still have the chance at true pain care.

  • juli hogan

    I just started there. My last pain dr. quit and moved away. I was pleased w the behavioral therapy covenant health center provides. I was not so pleased with my co pays as am on medicare only. Actually it frightened me, but i got so much out of the 5 classes i have attended that i no longer think like i did about my pain as i did. I still have pain, but i don’t let it drag my brain down as i have in the past.

    • A Local Healthcare Billing Professional

      To ET: Your statements, although truthful, are very misleading. The statements say that Medicare is paying Dr. Willis because Medicare has “approved” your treatment and has “set aside” those funds for payment. Until the 3rd-party auditor authorizes Medicare to RELEASE those funds, however, Dr. Willis will not RECEIVE any of those payments Medicare says they’re paying. The statements are misleading because Medicare IS paying the funds, but they’re paying them into a side account that Dr. Willis does not have access to. Until those funds are released, his center is seeing NONE of that money.

      • ET

        That’s strange you say that because I was on the phone with Medicare for 2 or more hours today making sure my bill WAS getting paid. According to Medicare Dr. Willis, even though he file each claim under a new name but same pain center, he got the money! I do not know who you are or how you are connected to Willis but I refuse to pay this man twice for the same service. This is why I suggested every one check their insurance statements or better still, call Medicare as I did. You can also check what Willis has been paid at: mymedicare.gov. If you don’t have an account, create one. Protect yourself people!

  • Erin Coryell

    Clearly most writer’s of these comments are extremly uninformed. You have no idea what your talking about. Don’t even bother putting your ill two sense in! What a bunch of uneducated morons. Wait until the shoe is on your foot, before you jump to assumptions. Good luck while you google the big words!

  • Ann

    AGAIN, what happens to the patients? say you’re on a regular dosage of medicine that you can’t just stop in a month’s time, on top of other health problems. a doctoe that will take that over will not be easy to find. do we sit around and wait for our stroke or heart attack? what will anyone do for the patients? long and ago doctors were not terrified of their prescription pads. now that we’ve gotten old doctor’s knees practically shake at writing a simple pain pill. i assume that, as usual, patients will be left hanging. or, no matter how sick they are having to drag themselves from doctor to doctor to try to find help. the matter of who is ar fault helps me not at all.

  • Ann

    AGAIN, what happens to the patients? i guess the sick person gets to drag themself from doctor to doctor trying to find one who’s not terrified of their prescription pad. blame doesn’t help me. i wish doctors were still doctors. back in the day they actually listened to the patient and gave them credit for knowing something about their own body. these guys weren’t as bad as some. so looks like the patients will just be cut loose to fight over the few doctors that might be found that could help them. again, blame doesn’t interest me. just wtf am i going to do now?

  • Area Health Care Professional

    Why are people acting like the sky is falling. Huntsville Hospital has a pain center right down the road with 4-5 MD and CRNPs? I know Birmingham has one and Cullman used to.

    • Bob P

      Huntsville Hospital doesn’t provide the same level of care. Or even close to the same level. As reported, all they are interested in is doing procedures and blocks. No coping skills. No physical therapy. Nothing but drugs. Patients of the Alabama Pain Center are used to a much higher level of caring and care. The simple fact that you suggest HH underlines the lack of knowledge you have. Please become informaed, before you decide to comment.

  • concerned patient

    This really surprises me about this clinic. I’ve been associated with them for 6 years. They are not a “pill mill” as some other doctors in the area are. Dr. Willis is an upstanding christian man. He has helped me more than anyone else ever has. I hope and pray they will get this problem resolved as soon as possible. He IS one of the good guys. As for those of you that are misinformed, you must go thru all kinds of physocological testing and classes before you get any prescriptions. How many doctors do you know that does that? I don’t know any…

  • Denece

    I have been a patient at the APC for three years. I suffer from chronic back pain. I have had five back surgeries in the past. Since then I have suffered severe pain. Pain so severe that at times I can’t even move. Or at least I couldn’t.
    For many, many years I was practically a shut in. I left my house maybe three times a month if that. In the last three years, my entire life has changed. Because of the APC, I now have a life again. I can go watch my nine year old neice play softball & basketball. I can go watch my nephew play in his high school band. And God willing I can see my nephew graduate in May, the same way I saw my other nephew graduate a couple years ago. I can get out and go places when I want now and again that is b/c of the APC.
    And in spite of what has been previously stated, they do NOT just push pills! I have never seen a more devoted set of people, muchless a doctor’s staff in my life. They do so much more there than hand out scripts. They teach you how to deal with your pain in ways that people who have never been there can’t understand.
    I truly don’t know what is going to happen to me now. I just know that it is now in God’s hands and I trust in that fact. I do want to thank the APC for all they have given me b/c without them, I don’t know where I would be.

    Sincerely, A PROUD APC PATIENT

  • christy

    I go there they are loving caring doctors they have helped me a lot I have nerve damage on my left side and I have came along way they got me on 3 different types of sezie Meds

    • psyane

      Sorry APC is NOT!!!!! Aggarwall part 2 its a miss use by the agency who is doing the audit. They are only paid if they find a “Problem” so of course they will find an issue. It is a shame that all of us with a real pain problem have such a hard time finding true help such as APC offers.

  • Margaret Smith

    I have been a patient at APC for over fifteen years. I love Dr. Willis and his staff. He has helped me so much. I was crushed between mobile home and a pick up truck. It crushed me, broke pelvis on both side, crushed my tail bone and went through many surgeries, therapy, etc. When I finally healed, they sent me to Dr. Willis for my chronic pain. I love him and all the things he did for me. I pray Medicare comes to its senses and helps them so they can keep helping all of us. Praying for you, Dr. Willis.

  • SONIA NELSON

    THIS IS A VERY SAD SITUATION TO ME….I AM A PATIENT AND HAVE RECEIVED PAIN RELIEF. AS FAR AS BEING A PILL PUSHER, YOU ARE DRUG TESTED OFTEN TO PREVENT ANY ABUSE OF PAIN MEDS. I I LOVE THE STAFF AND CARE OF THE DOCTORS.

  • Rhonda Williams

    Maybe if he would have listen to past staff members and let Ms. McGaugh go a long time ago he would not have all the problems. Some people who worked for APC seen this coming and warned others but no one would listen. Maybe it’s really time for APC to become TRUE Christians and wake up. Ask GOD to forgive you for hurting people and make sure they contact the people they HURT! APC is all about money, money ONLY. Not about your care. FAKE people, FAKE CHRISTIANS. A messy place to be as a patient and employee. It’s a shame that it comes to closing your doors. Some doctors do care and to be a Christian base company why can’t you help others instead of closing your doors. Be real people, Medicare has just cut a lot of stuff out but they are still paying for service with APC. It’s just the APC doctors are not making as much money as they would like to make…..Just move on and find real doctors that do care about your health.

  • Nurse

    As a nurse who has attested to CMS/Medicare for doctors numerous times, I can say that “where there is smoke, there is fire.” It is unthinkable that a governing entity such as CMS would even pause payments to a practitioner because they understand that is their sole revenue. So, when I see that 1) an audit has occurred and 2) payments have stopped, it tells me there is significant cause for doing so.

  • Ridiculous

    He is closing due to Medicare Fraud. That certainly falls under the categories of ‘money hungry’ and ‘greedy’.

  • LilEppie

    CMS is responsible for Medicare fraud. They don’t do this type of audit without cause. There is a reason this is happening and I don’t believe it has anything to do with the type of practice involved. It’s a matter of incorrect or fraudulent billing practices.

  • Bob P

    Please become informed, before you comment. CMS has not suspended payment. It is being made into an Escrow account while the Denial by AdvanceMed is heard in appeal. In fact, CMS has said that care of its patients can continue while the appeal is in process. 3 of the 4 denials are already refuted, they are just waiting for the forth one to be heard. In the mean time, APC has gone directly to CMS to have the funds released, and that looked to be in process until the govt shutdown. Now that the Republications have rolled over, the release of funds may happen in time to avert the closure.

    Keep praying! Good things are happening.

  • Chelsey

    I am very outraged at what is going on with this situation. I am a patient at Alabama pain center and have a family member that works there. It is not often that you can find places that speak of God and faith and aren’t ashamed of it. Quite frankly that’s the problem with our country and government now. We were founded on Godly principles in the beginning and included him in everything; look what happens when you take him out. Back on the subject, I believe that all of you that have negative comments need to become more educated about the situation. Everyone knows of all the pain clinics that are just referred to as “drug pushers” and this is not the case at APC. They actually CARE for each of their patients and teach them other methods of dealing and coping with their pain rather than being highly medicated. And for all of you that think it’s all about pain pumps you are comletely wrong. That actually falls into a very small portion of what they do. If the doors close on this place what happens to all of these people that have relied so heavily on APC to give them their quality of life back WITHOUT being “doped up”???

  • Watchful

    Not surprised this is happening. I was a patient there and always felt it to be very suspicious. I also did not appreciate the fact that I had to have ‘religion’ e.g., supposed Christianity, shoved down my throat and pushed on to me in order to get relief for my pain. I think APC is receiving it’s come-uppance. To those of you who feel you are reliant upon this establishment, there are other avenues out there. Huntsville Hospital is indeed a viable alternative, as well as homeopathy and natural medication. Find the answers for yourselves! And to those who will most likely tell me to ‘check my facts’ or ‘educate’ myself, please understand that we are all entitled to express our opinions. That’s all you’re doing as well.

  • Irene

    I have been going to APC for a couple of years with pain and trust me they are not drug pushers. They do drug testng and test how much of the drug they are giving you is in your ststem and drug test often. Its a shame to everyone thats posting drug pushers I know some doctors that actually are but not APC I love that place they have helped me think different with my pain thru theraphy and behavior classes that Dr George teaches and his and Dr. Willis cds that I love to help me relax they have helped me get my life back without being drugged up. trust me you WILL NOT get too many pain pills there. I pray that it dont close.

  • light on darkness

    I have been a patient at APC for more than 10 yrs. I have talked to many past staff and there is something wrong.My insurance was Great and it stopped paying him over a year ago due to an audit! You can not cut corners in medicine to make money, whether it be with your unqualified billing staff or paying staff too little to where they turn you in for unethical procedures! When you think you are GOD and call yourself a Christian the one true GOD is going to shine light on darkness! Repent, pray and turn from the root of all evil $money money money! Three times I was given a prescription for the wrong medication of a stronger milligram, (it would have really overdosed me had I taken it) my pharmacist has record of it! When I got home and noticed it was 3 times my usual strength and I called the staff, they were very rude! 2x they had me bring the pills to them for incineration, and I had to pay for an additional office visit! I wanted the lower milligram not the higher and they acted like I was causing problems for them. The 3rd time I was told to please just flush them to avoid the paper work. and again had to pay for another 60$ correct scrip.However to this day my honesty never paid off because if my pain exceeds the usual level and I just ask for 2-3 days of something stronger they treat me like a drug addict ( and never get a timely answer) and by the time they call back its been 2-3 days and I still get random drug test after 10yrs and never failing one at the cost of over 200$ At some point you would think they would look at you as an individual and not just a number for the $money!

  • Debra Perkins Smith

    I like the cullman one I have been to others and was on 7 diferent med.i take one now and one that is not a narc I could not sit stand or lay without pain or walk no more than a few min couldn’t lay in bed without pillows under me and my hips cause it felt like bruises now I can do alot more without as much pain I had a lot of isues cryed all the time anxiety very bad now I dont have hardly any because of them

  • Bob P

    I just received word that the funds have been released from the escrow account and should be received by APC, soon.

    Told yall that prayer would help.

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