ABIM Foundation, Choosing Wisely, and the $2.3 million Condominium appeared on this blog. It has been one year without answers to the many financial, conflicts of interest, and likely illegal tax dealings of the American Board of Internal Medicine discussed within this blog's pages.
But as this story has unfolded, it is clear that this story is much more than a story of the purchase of a luxury condominium by a little known non-profit organization. It has been the story of betrayal of the entire practicing physician community in the United States and their patients everywhere in the name of self-serving power and greed by a relatively select few.
The story is also an embarrassing demonstration of the inability of our professional medical societies to deal forthrightly and honestly with all that has transpired. The vast network of the interconnected medical Specialty Board System led by the American Board of Medical Specialties in the United States that earns hundreds of millions of dollars annually from physician testing fees is incredibly wasteful and counterproductive. Instead of honest examination and disclosure of the facts, the ongoing deception, double-speak, and cover-ups of this system continues.
To date this story has also been about the failure of our legal, government, and law enforcement agencies to investigate the secret financial and tax filing discrepancies of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the ABIM Foundation. This has created a colossal erosion of physicians' trust with our US medical regulatory agencies, especially when doctors can't trust these agencies to protect them from fraud and abuse.
Why the lack of governmental investigation into over $70 million of physician testing fees that were secretly funneled from working physicians (preoccupied with the real work of patient care) into a shadow "Foundation" hellbent on making shady investments and enriching its leadership? The wanton disregard of the basic tenets of law and a civil society displayed by the ABIM is an anathema to honest physicians. Most physicians would prefer to believe that we do not work in an environment that rewards deception, theft, and greed. Yet here we are.
Finally, with the notable exception of a veteran Newsweek reporter, Kurt Eichenwald (see here, here, here, and here) and the tireless efforts of a single forensic accountant, Mr. Charles P. Kroll with whom I have had the pleasure to meet, there has been precious little true investigative reporting into the financial and anti-trust activities of the ABMS and their member boards by major outlets of main stream media. "It's a doctor problem" or "it's too complicated," I've been told. Is that the reason?
One thing's for sure: there's a lot of money at stake in the testing and control of practicing physicians and it is increasingly clear that these organizations (and even some segments of government for which they now work) won't open up willingly or relinquish their lucrative MOC re-certification program without a fight. They know they simply can't afford to maintain their current ways without it.
Getting It Wrong Again
Because of this reality of cover-up and backed by remarkable hubris and ego, the ABIM leadership appears to have made a more recent critical error - another little thing it appears they got "wrong." The ABIM decided to track down and hunt a young physician attendee of the Arora Board Review course attended in 2009 using an email that was found on the server at the residence of Dr. Arora and sued him almost five years later. These guys are serious. It seems maintaining monopoly control of the lucrative board re-certification process using threats and intimidation (aka, The Chicago Way) was just too important to the ABIM. But what the ABIM didn't expect is that this young man had at least one parent who was a lawyer, and he sued back. Time wil tell if this brave man dealt the ABIM (already in the midst of their own financial and ethical mess) a potentially mortal blow.
This case is about to get interesting. So interesting, in fact, that it appears the ABIM's legal team will stop at nothing to try confuse and deceive the judge or magistrate who will soon hear oral arguments in late January 2016 about the case.
Perhaps then the truth will come out: all of the facts of the business of testing physicians; all of the tactics used to bully physicians into compliance with the ABIM MOC program; everything laid bare.
For this story is similar to the disturbing story of a subcontracting security firm that works with Pearson (a company reviewed earlier on this blog) and paid by the state of New Jersey that has been spying on children to protect their monopoly interest in the content of the national Common Core test. For physicians, it is no coincidence that a different division of Pearson, PearsonVue, is the professional testing division of Pearson that the ABIM uses to secure its examinations and cherished test questions.
When the facts come to light about the spying, the tracking, the hunting of physicians by an organization profiting handsomely from intimidation and thuggery, it will be hard for the ABIM and its Foundation to survive. So, too, the basic construct of the ABMS and our entire professional specialty board system.
It is increasingly clear that the ABMS MOC program is about threats and intimidation so people can enrich themselves selling unproven quality data to unwitting customers, and little more. Physician education, if it happens, is really secondary. Is this what the physicians need from these sheltered and unaccountable non-profit organizations? How much time, energy, and money have we already wasted and turned from the delivery of health care with this program? How many physicians' lives has the current system in its perverted construct ruined?
When all of the facts of the MOC program become known, maybe, just maybe, the ongoing fleecing of US physicians by the corrupt and misguided ABMS MOC progam and the irresponsible Code of Silence held by their subordinate member boards will end and our profession can get back to doing what its meant to do: treat patients.
One can only hope.
PS: By the way, today in history on December 16, 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place.
Seems apropos, doesn't it?