Sean Tunis, chief clinical officer of the CMS, has been charged by the Maryland Board of Physicians with using his government data access to falsely show that he had completed his continuing medical education mandate. In response, the CMS placed Tunis on indefinite leave with pay and replaced him on an interim basis with Barry Straube, a regional official out of CMS Region IX in San Francisco.
The board began its investigation into Tunis after receiving an anonymous written complaint in July 2002. Responding to the board, Tunis wrote that he believed the complaint came from a "disgruntled CMS subordinate" whom he passed over for a promotion. The board licenses doctors to practice medicine in the state and has the authority to suspend or revoke those licenses.
Tunis works part-time as an emergency medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore. The physicians' board complaint charges him with submitting false statements regarding his continuing medical education on three consecutive reappointment applications and willfully making a false report. It says he also "persistently failed to comply" with subpoenas issued by the board, failing to cooperate with a lawful investigation.
In his written response, Tunis acknowledged doctoring a 2001 document but said he never submitted it. Tunis could not be reached for comment and the CMS had no comment on the allegations.
A hearing into the matter is scheduled for July and will go forward if no settlement is reached before then.
Tunis has been a key player in the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, determining what prescription drugs will be covered under the law. He was appointed to the post in April 2003 and has worked at the CMS since 2000.