Medicare has stopped paying claims to Miami-based Fernando Mendez-Villamil, MD, until it can figure out whether his prolific prescription writing is legit. The psychiatrist has written 96,685 prescriptions to Medicaid patients over the last 21 months.
That works out to an astonishing clip of 150 prescriptions per day, 7-days per week. It is nearly twice as many as the runner-up prescriber, Huberto Merayo, whose office is just a few blocks from the Prescription King.
In fact, the top 7 prescribers of mental-health drugs in the state all reside in the Miami-Dade area.
According to the Miami Herald, Miami-Dade is at or near the top, depending on the measure, of the most expensive places to get health care in the nation.
“While the state is investigating, we haven’t paid his claims,” Medicare spokesman Peter Ashkenaz told the Herald. Apparently, Medicare cut off the spigot last May.
The story hit the press after Charles Grassley, a Republican Senator from Iowa released a letter he had written to Medicare and Medicaid officials in which he inquired about their procedures for detecting over-utilization of medical services. The letter didn’t mention Mendez-Villamil by name, but did cite the number of prescriptions he had written.
The Herald used the astronomical number to trace the allegation back to Mendez-Villamil.
The psychiatrist told The Herald that he prescribes only drugs that are medically necessary, that he works long hours, averages 10 minutes per patient visit, and many of his patients are taking 4 or 5 drugs.
Grassley’s letter, it should be noted, concerned only Medicaid prescriptions. No one seems to know how many scripts the prolific psychiatrist penned for patients covered by Medicare.