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.”