Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN-08) met on Tuesday with Dr. Bryan Merrick, co-owner of McKenzie Medical Center, whose Medicare privileges were abruptly revoked by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services over clerical billing errors totaling $670, McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland, Huntingdon Mayor Dale Kelley, McLemoresville Mayor Phil Williams, Carroll County Mayor Kenny McBride, and Bethel University President Walter Butler, all of whom were attempting to secure his help in stopping this egregious abuse of individual rights by an overreaching federal government health care bureaucracy.
Kustoff basically punted in response, offering to undertake nothing more than a purely symbolic effort to “expedite” the lengthy administrative law judge offering.
Meanwhile, Dr. Merrick’s patients and employees, as well as Dr. Merrick and McKenzie Medical Center, will suffer devastating consequences, since Medicare payments, which comprise almost half of his practice, are now completely cut off.
McKenzie, Tennessee is located in Tennessee’s Eighth Congressional District, which Kustoff represents.
In a press released provided to The Tennessee Star by friends of Dr. Merrick, McKenzie, Mayor Jill Holland, speaking for all those attending the meeting with Kustoff on Dr. Merrick’s behalf “said that she and the others would not be there if they thought Dr. Merrick had done anything wrong.”
“He is the most trusted and well-respected doctor in our community. For many patients, he is their lifeline. Without him, it is a death sentence,” Holland said of Dr. Merrick.
The press release continued:
Mayor Holland told Congressman Kustoff:
“You are our best hope. Without your help, this could be like California or Las Vegas with that many people dying. You’re our voice—we don’t have another voice. Dr. Merrick is our lifeline. This is our plea to please help us.”
Dr. Merrick confirmed what Mayor Holland was saying by pointing to scientific studies reporting that interrupting the “continuity of care” for senior citizens increases hospitalizations and deaths.
Congressman Kustoff said that he would try to get a quicker administrative law judge hearing, but Dr. Merrick told him, “This needs to go to the top”—to the top administrator at CMS, the federal agency that has revoked Dr. Merrick’s right to serve Medicare patients.
Dr. Winkler told Congressman Kustoff that the McKenzie Medical Center cannot wait for an administrative hearing that may take a year. Dr. Winkler pointed out that the McKenzie Medical Center already has not been paid for Dr. Merrick’s services to Medicare patients for six months.
Mayor Holland pointed out that elderly patients who are about to lose their doctor do not have months or years to wait.
Former State Senator Roy Herron, an attorney, explained that it will not help Dr. Merrick or his patients to get an expedited hearing before an administrative law judge who is almost certain to rule against Dr. Merrick for technical, legal reasons that have nothing to do with the merits of the case.
Dr. Winkler and Senator Herron pointed out that healthcare attorneys who have handled similar cases report that administrative law judges generally do not, for technical, legal reasons reverse the federal agency’s decisions in these types of cases.
On behalf of Dr. Merrick, Herron also gave a six page letter to Congressman Kustoff. Herron quoted from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and its “Advisory Opinion No. 1.”
Herron pointed out that under the House Rules the Congressman could arrange for interviews or appointments. On behalf of Dr. Merrick, Herron asked that Congressman Kustoff “personally and in person ask the head of CMS for an appointment so that she can interview Dr. Merrick and ask each and every question she or her agency have about the ten patients.”
Medicare was billed for services for ten patients with total charges of about $670 which Medicare denied. For example, bills were submitted by a billing clerk for the wrong patient with an identical or similar name.
“Congressman Kustoff listened intensely and asked several questions. Congressman Kustoff’s District Director, Marianne Dunavant, assured all that ‘we haven’t given up, and we will keep working,” the release continued.
“Persons wanting Dr. Merrick to be able to continue practicing medicine should as Congressman Kustoff to help by getting the federal agency to reverse its decision. . . Supporters should also go to the following website to learn about what they can do to help,” the release concluded.