Government Doctors Being Checked for Disciplinary History
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal investigators are checking the records of some 6,000 government doctors to determine if any sought shelter in the bureaucracy after being disciplined by state medical boards.
The inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department, Richard P. Kusserow, began the program Monday to check physician names against files of the Federation of State Medical Boards in Fort Worth, Texas.
Suzan Bibisi, a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office, said Kusserow is not acting on any charges that many disciplined physicians turned to the government after being kicked out of private practice.
Rather, she said, he was acting on a general concern about physician credentials, heightened by recent reports of unqualified physicians practicing in military hospitals.
″They’re not looking for anything in particular,″ Bibisi said. ″They’re doing this to see what they find.″
The doctors work in HHS agencies including the Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the Indian Health Service.
Bibisi said the computer match, which could take up to three months, will cover all the department’s physicians up to and including Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who was a renowned pediatric surgeon before taking the federal post.
While information provided to the federation varies from state to state, the federal investigators generally expect to find information about doctors whose licenses were suspended or revoked or who surrendered their licenses at the request of state licensing authorities.
Bibisi said the inspector general had no estimate of how many disciplined physicians, if any, will show up in the checks. But she noted that many government doctors will not show up with licenses at all because their medical careers have been spent in research, where a license to practice is not required.
The physician match program is the latest in a growing number of investigations by the inspector general that involve matching computer data banks.
They began with a program Kusserow called ″Project Spectre,″ which he has resulted in hundreds of convictions for fraud and the recovery of tens of millions of dollars. The program compares death statistics with Social Security beneficiary rolls to detect people who attempt to continue receiving the pension checks of relatives who have died.
In May, Kusserow began a program to check the personnel files of some 41,000 HHS employees who have access to financial programs against FBI arrest and conviction records to determine if the workers truthfully disclosed any criminal history.
The inspector general’s fiscal year work plan says further computer match programs are planned.
These include comparisons of Social Security disability rolls with state unemployment compensation rolls; comparisons of welfare and unemployment rolls against Immigration and Naturalization Service rolls to find illegal aliens drawing benefit checks; and comparisons of welfare rolls with Medicaid and school attendance records to identify people who may be claiming welfare for non-existent children.