Suspended CMS Official Sean Tunis Continues To Receive Pay
Sean Tunis, chief medical officer and director of the Office of Clinical Standards and Quality at CMS, continues to receive pay from the federal government more than two months after the Maryland Board of Physicians suspended his medical license for falsification of documents, the Washington Post reports (Connolly, Washington Post, 8/9).
In June, Tunis agreed to a one-year suspension of his medical license and a $20,000 fine for the falsification of documents related to the completion of continuing medical education courses. 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 (California Healthline, 6/6). At the time, Bush administration officials said they did not plan to take action against Tunis until the board investigation was completed.
Tunis has received an annual salary of $107,000 to $162,000, as well as a physician comparability allowance, estimated at $30,000 annually. Any board-certified physician can receive the PCA, according to an unnamed associate of Tunis speaking on his behalf.
However, Cary Sennett of the American Board of Internal Medicine said that physicians who have their medical license suspended also would have their board certification suspended. CMS spokesperson Gary Karr declined recent interview requests and declined to explain why Tunis continues to receive pay, an issue that he called a "personnel matter" (Washington Post, 8/9).