Phantom med schools are contributing to Medicare data

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'Phantom' Colleges Appear In Medicare Database


Do you really know your doctor's history? VICE and MedPage Today recently teamed up to uncover potentially widespread misinformation within the Medicare system, discovering the existence of "phantom" medical schools in databases.

Dr. Thomas "Randy" Lombardo, for instance, is falsely represented in the Medicare provider database. The cardiologist graduated from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1981, but the database says he graduated from Gate City Medical College -- a school that was shut down in 1911 after the dean was accused of selling fake diplomas for $50.

The error was considered to be a data error, but Medicare didn't flag the potential fraud. The Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) are required to look into these issues, but this research suggests that perhaps they aren't doing so closely enough.

In fact, VICE and MedPage Today found that the Medicare provider database lists thousands of doctors and other providers as graduates from medical schools that have ceased to exist for about a century now.

Doctors are ineligible to practice medicine or bill Medicare without a medical degree from an accredited medical school.

While Dr. Lombardo went to an accredited and legitimate medical school, the faulty data could point towards bigger issues. This error could potentially point to the fact that some of the doctors who are receiving taxpayer money through the program may not be eligible to practice under its rules.

When Dr. Lombardo's assistant was told about the defunct college in his federal record, she was shocked. She admitted that the office bills Medicare all the time without a problem. The office is technically allowed to bill Medicare because the doctor has a legitimate degree from an accredited university, but the data in the Medicare database is technically considered to be false.

CMS officials believe that these defunct schools appear on records due to an error from a drop down menu in the system.

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