CMS Chief Clinical Officer Sean Tunis Charged With Records Falsification
The Maryland Board of Physicians has charged Sean Tunis, CMS chief clinical officer and a former Senate staffer, with falsification of records, failure to comply with subpoenas and unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine, according to a complaint obtained by The Hill. According to the complaint, Tunis -- who works on a part-time basis in the Emergency Medicine Department at Mercy Medical Center in Maryland -- falsified records to indicate that he had complied with continuing medical education requirements. All practicing physicians must accumulate the required amount of CME credits to retain their medical licenses.
The complaint alleges that Tunis, who has served at CMS since 2000, used government supplies to falsify two CME certificates and sent the certificates to Mercy on Jan. 2, 2002. According to the complaint, Tunis "persistently failed to comply with the board's subpoenas that he produce original CME documentation" and "failed to provide a legitimate reason for his failure to produce CME documentation for CME credits he had claimed." The complaint added that his actions amounted to "unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine."
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. The board will hold a "case-resolution conference" on the complaint on Thursday. An administrative law judge will hear the case in July in the event that the board does not reach a resolution.
The board, which declined to comment on the complaint, could take disciplinary actions against Tunis -- such as the suspension or revocation of his medical license, probation or a fine -- which "could have political ramifications given that the target would be the federal government's point man on quality of care," according to The Hill. Tunis serves as director of the Office of Clinical Standards and Quality, which determines whether Medicare will cover prescription drugs, medical devices and other treatments and likely will "play a major role in deciding Medicare's coverage policy" on certain medications under the new prescription drug benefit, which takes effect in 2006, The Hill reports.
"It is unclear" whether the CMS ethics official will address the issue and whether Tunis can continue to work at Mercy while the board considers his case, according to The Hill. Gary Carr, CMS director of media affairs, said, "This is a personnel matter, and we cannot comment at this time. As a general matter, we have a detailed process in place to ensure the integrity of our personnel and decision-making" (Cusack, The Hill, 4/6).