Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Senior HHS Official Lies On Resume, Has Medical License Suspended and ... Doesn't Get Fired

A high-ranking Medicare officer, whose medical license was suspended because he falsified documents concerning his continuing education, was reassigned to another government agency, officials said yesterday.

It's the latest example of how no one gets fired by the Bush Administration. People can lie, they can be incompetent, they can break rules. But they won't get fired. Sometimes, they even get promoted.

Oh what a wonderful world it must be to have a job in that administration. What job security!

Oh sure, some in the administration resign under pressure, like the recently incompetent FEMA Director Michael Brown. But the Brownies of the world are the exception.

More often are people like Sean R. Tunis, who was the chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In that role, he helped determine what services and medical devices Medicare would reimburse.

Tunis had been placed on paid administrative leave in April. He was reassigned within the Department of Health & Human Services yesterday, and will now serve as a senior biomedical research scientist at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. It's unclear whether his salary, estimated at as much as $162,000, will drop with his new title.

Oh what a wonderful world it must be to have a job in that administration. What job security!

What did Tunis do?

According to an investigation by the Maryland Board of Physicians, Tunis in 2002 used government supplies to falsify continued medical education certificates. He falsely claimed that he had completed 50 hours of courses. (Under Maryland law, physicians must complete continuing education to keep their licenses current. Often the requirements can be met by attending professional conferences, completing online courses or reviewing academic journal articles.)

The board suspended Tunis' medical license for at least one year, fined him $20,000, and ordered him to complete an ethics course and 35 hours of continuing medical education.

At the time of his suspension, Bush administration officials said they did not plan to take any action until the Maryland board completed its investigation.

And now the administration has taken action. It's reassigned him. An HHS spokesperson described Tunis' work yesterday as "stellar."

Go figure. He was a "stellar" liar.

Tunis, in an April interview with the Baltimore Sun, blamed "lapses of memory" for his error. He later told the Washington Post that he was guilty of "careless record-keeping."

Oh what a wonderful world it must be to have a job in that administration. What job security!

For what it's worth, Tunis seemed more than happy yesterday with the Bush Administration's firing policy -- or lack thereof.

"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," he was quoted by the Associated Press.


Blogger don dzikowski said...

How about one big collective sigh.
Maybe the government should appoint a bi-partison board to routinely examine the competency of all presidential appointees taking on prominent roles and rule on corrective action, even termination, when they go wayward.
At the very least, maybe this board would lead to public awareness of appointment of political hacks. Public outrage would have stopped the placement of Mr. Ed incompetent horseman Brown to the top FEMA post.
I know congress is supposed to be properly reviewing appointees. This checks and balances system fails when one party dominates the government.

I don't believe the majority of Americans would stand for keeping Tunis in his job. But since when do the Republicans follow the will of the people? 75% of Americans want an independent inquiry into the Katrina response, but last I heard the Republicans have still placed themselves in charge of the investigation.

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this represents the crucifixion of a truly competent and dedicated public servant. Although virtually nothing of the real story appeared in the press, the fact is that Dr. Tunis was doing extraordinary things at CMS, including creative use of reimbursement to improve medical knowledge about the things we spend billions on. This fall from grace was the result of a hatchet job by enemies within CMS and the notorious MD medical board, appointed by a Republican governor, which has shown itself so incompetent that it was almost eliminated a few years ago. While it is true that the Bushies routinely reward incompetence and fire the truth-tellers, poor Dr. Tunis was one of the good guys, too good even to fight vigorously enough to save his own reputation. Virtually none of the accusations are true, and small component that is is so breathtakingly trivial that one wonders why anyone spent 5 minutes on this case. Very sadly, this story will now never get out, and the American public has lost, big-time. But on the basis of what you have read in the papers,, it is understandable that you wrote what you did. I would encourage you not to write more without actually knowing the facts of this case.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, Tunis acknowledged he did something wrong. There is a mountain of evidence showing how he lied about what he did.

Virtually none of the accusations are true? Then why didn't Tunis stand up for himself? Why didn't anyone else defend him?

I just don't see how what you say can possibly be true, given the evidence presented.

10:25 AM  

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