Alabama Pain Center Facing Medicare Audit, Could be Forced to Close

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Alabama Pain Center has informed its patients and staff of ongoing difficulties with Medicare that could force the clinic to close.

"I don't understand how they can deny us, all of us, our medications," said patient Pat Brunker. " And I don't know where to go.   I don't know what will happen to us if he shuts his doors."

The clinic could be forced to close its doors in as soon as 60 days, according to a press release from the Alabama Pain Center.

The audit is being performed by AdvanceMed, a Zone Program Integrity Contractor, and has been going on since January.  In late August, AdvanceMed chose to continue the audit and suspend all Medicare payments to the clinic while the review continues.

The Alabama Pain Center claims that like many large medical practices, roughly 80 percent of the clinic's revenues come from Medicare payments.  Withholding Medicare payments would force the clinic to close, according to a statement released by the Alabama Pain Center.

The Alabama Pain Center employs 124 staff members and provides care for over 2,700 patients on a regular basis.

According to the press release, the Alabama Pain Center has filed a rebuttal of the decisions to suspend Medicare payments, but the appeal process can run for a span of nine to 14 months.

“The Alabama Pain Center provides quality, state-of-the-art care to thousands of patients across our region suffering from chronic disabling pain," said Dr. Dean Willis, the Chief Medical Officer and Founder of the Alabama Pain Center. "Our staff wants nothing other than to continue providing that service to our patients. This unwarranted action may make it impossible for us to continue that mission much longer.”

“This is not about Medicare and not about my practice,” said Dr. Willis. “Unless this suspension is lifted it is about the patients and their families that will suffer needlessly. We welcome any audit or review and will participate whole-heartedly just as we have done for many reviews in our 26-year history.  It just does not seem reasonable for Medicare to put a physician’s practice out of business while they are in the process of determining if any rules have been broken. It seems now you are guilty until proven innocent."

"I don't know what will happen.  I am truly terrified," said Brunker. "Terrified."

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