BMH whistleblower earns debt of public gratitude

BRATTLEBORO — Having worked for 10 years as a medical social worker at the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (BMH) Comprehensive Care Clinic, I was devastated to learn that BMH has recently paid the federal and state Medicare and Medicaid programs $1.65 million to settle a federal lawsuit against the hospital for filing false billing claims.

I first need to note that my hard-working colleagues at the Comprehensive Care Clinic and in the oncology department are incredibly knowledgeable, and experienced. They are some of the kindest, most expert professionals I have ever come across.

And, as Spoon Agave pointed out in his recent letter, [“The shenanigans of our hospital have been exposed,” March 7], professional and non-professional staff throughout the hospital are amazingly conscientious and completely devoted to their patients.

Sadly, though, as reported by Bob Audette in his Feb. 26 Reformer article, BMH's most senior administration embodies a very different culture.

When Amy Beth Main, then the billing department's director, noticed the suspicious overbilling, she reportedly notified BMH senior management, but they refused to correct their fraudulent practices.

The Reformer quotes her attorney, Norman Watts: “Amy Beth worked for the hospital in an administrative role in the financial services department. She is an experienced administrator in health care, and she observed irregular, inappropriate, improper and illegal billings.”

Attorney Watts contended that Main “protested internally ... vigorously.” The Reformer reported that “her protestations were ignored” and, quoting Watts, that “after BMH 'made life miserable for her,' she quit her job.”

The only reason this $1.65 million fraud ever saw the light of day is because of the courage of this honest BMH employee who refused to stay silent while senior management continued to direct their billing department to overcharge Medicare/Medicaid.

Standing up for what is right is so very hard to do, and in Amy Beth Main's case, I believe that it led to her being essentially forced out of her job.

Our community owes a debt of gratitude to Ms. Main's integrity; she inspires all of us to stand up and speak the truth.

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