October 26

Suspended Chief Medical Officer of Medicare reassigned to AHRQ

Suspended Chief Medical Officer of Medicare reassigned to AHRQ

Wed, 21 Sep 2005

An example of how little the federal government cares about professinal standards or the integrity of high ranking medical offficers.

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav

Daily Health Policy Report
Kaiser Network
Suspended CMS Chief Medical Officer Tunis Reassigned to AHRQ
[Sep 21, 2005]

Sean Tunis, a high-level CMS official whose medical license was suspended in May for falsification of documents, was reassigned to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as a senior biomedical research scientist, the AP/New York Times reports (AP/New York Times, 9/21). Tunis had served as chief medical officer at CMS and helped determine which services and medical devices Medicare would cover (Washington Post, 9/21). In June, Tunis agreed to a one-year suspension of his medical license by the Maryland Board of Physicians and a $20,000 fine for the falsification of documents related to the completion of continuing medical education courses, according to news reports. Under a consent order dated May 25, Tunis also must complete an ethics course and 35 hours of CME. The board in April charged Tunis with falsification of records, failure to comply with subpoenas and unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine. According to the complaint, Tunis — who works on a part-time basis in the emergency medicine department at Mercy Medical Center in Maryland — used government supplies to falsify two CME certificates and sent the certificates to Mercy on Jan. 2, 2002. All practicing physicians must accumulate the required amount of CME credits to retain their medical licenses. Tunis told the board that he falsified the two CME certificates but said that he did not send them to Mercy. According to Tunis, a CMS employee searched his office and faxed the certificates to Mercy. CMS in April placed Tunis on administrative leave, under which he continued to receive pay (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 8/9).


The reassignment of Tunis to AHRQ was confirmed one day after the HHS Office of Inspector General released an updated list of individuals and businesses who cannot work with federal health care programs. Tunis appeared on the list, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. HHS spokesperson Christina Pearson said that she could not discuss the reason the reassignment was allowed, which she called a personal matter. However, she said that Tunis did not appear on the list because of his job performance. “He does have valuable experience that will be helpful,” Pearson said. She added that Tunis will work on projects related to the education of medical researchers at AHRQ and will not serve as a medical officer. Tunis said, “I regret having made mistakes in handling my (continuing education) records, but I am now pleased to be moving forward into a new phase of my career” (Freking, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/20).

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