The unholy alliance of industry captured high-impact medical journals, federal public health agencies, professional societies (ABIM, AMA, APHa etc), and most importantly, the state medical licensing boards directed by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) are still going hard after us “dissenting” doctors. You know, those of us that very publicly called out the unscientific policies implemented by corrupted policymakers in a directed pursuit of profits and power. Their actions trying to silence us (and to scare other doctors from speaking out) are escalating.
Recently, what I call the “misinformation committee” of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) voted to strip Professor Paul Marik and myself of our Board certifications. To best understand why they would do this, I think it is important to review what the ABIM is, how it operates, and then detail their absurd attempt to paint us as misinformationists by using disinformation.
Let’s trace my current relationship with the ABIM to today:
At the end of my training, I became Board Certified by the ABIM in three specialties (Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases, and Critical Care Medicine).
What is the ABIM? Well, from this devastating article by Kurt Eichenwald, an accomplished corporate investigative journalist who did a devastating takedown of the ABIM and its officers in a Newsweek piece in 2015:
The ABIM is a purported nonprofit that certifies new physicians as meeting standards of practice. Beginning in the early 1990s, the ABIM ordered certified doctors to be recertified, again and again. Without the ABIM seal of approval, lots of internists and subspecialists can’t get jobs and can’t admit patients to hospitals. So by taking advantage of that monopolistic power, the ABIM has forced hundreds of thousands of physicians to follow recertification processes that doctors complain cost them tons of money (paid to the ABIM), require tons of time (taken from families and medical practices) and accomplish nothing.
In many doctor’s opinion, this cash grab of the ABIM by selling “certifications” is a corrupt farce. There is no evidence that certifying doctors in this highly costly way does anything to improve the quality of care delivered. The ABIM has not only refused to produce data showing the program improves patient care but also hasn’t conducted any studies on that matter. In fact, the ABIM and its related organizations are:
harming American medicine and diminishing the quality of scientific research, pushing physicians to close practices rather than wasting time on expensive and frustrating busywork, and forcing specialists to play a game of medical trivial pursuit. (Even Baron has admitted that he was tested for recertification on topics he never used in his practice.)
But it sure does generate cash for ABIM executives. Note that Board Certification used to simply be a sort of “honor” denoting that the member passed a more rigorous examination in their specialty. That “honor” comes at a price though:
Since I am (was?) Board certified in 3 specialties, lets do some math as this is what it costs me to re-certify every ten years:
$1,430 for Internal Medicine
$2,325 for Pulmonary Diseases
$2,325 for Critical Care Medicine
But wait, we are not done yet. These bastards were not making enough money with once-every-ten-year recertification exam fees, so they invented a new program of annual busywork education requirements which they called Maintenance of Certification (MOC) which costs you $220 every year for every certification (plus late fees if you forget). To wit, I went into my patient portal and discovered.. I owe them $480 for each of my certifications!
And get this – that money essentially goes to ABIM executive salaries and pensions and other dubious private investments as described by Eichenwald where he details the insane lengths the ABIM goes to “hide” the compensation and pension data on its executives. What is worse is that ABIM certification has now been made a requirement of employment as a faculty member of academic medical centers and hospitals and is also a requirement to be on many insurance company panels (these actions further strengthen the control of doctor behavior).
Doctors have started publicly slamming the group in industry publications. “ABIM is imposing on us an onerous and ill-conceived tool, one that most physicians agree is irrelevant,” Dr. Karmela Chan wrote in Internal Medicine News. “I am glad this conversation is happening, because, frankly, the process was enough to make me want to quit being a doctor.” Further, in a recent poll of 2,211 physicians conducted on a doctors-only website called Sermo, 97 percent of the respondents criticized recertification.
Richard J. Baron, the ABIM CEO that sent letters threatening decertification to me and Paul, makes close to a million dollars a year, however that data is almost impossible to find due to the ABIM’s multiple attempts to obscure it as well as its spokespeople avoiding answering any inquiries on the topic. Here is a summary of Eichenwalds findings on the ABIM:
- In 2015, they were 5 months late in filing their publicly available financial report with the IRS (that several journalists were very interested in).
- The report is full of obfuscations and anomalies of reporting of not only the actual money earned by the executives, and particularly Baron, but his financial conflicts of interest are even better hidden.
- A big percentage of the ABIM’s millions was in the form of cash to one former employee.
- The ABIM in 2013 had 57 million against liabilities of 105 million – while Baron was going around saying that its assets are three times its liabilities (this was a 100% lie. When I get to the ABIM’s response to our defense letter, remember that what liars do is.. lie).
- It lost $4.8 million on $55.5 million in revenues, no small feat and almost entirely due to a bloated payroll.
- It also claims it spends no money on lobbying while it spent between 100K to 160K annually to lobby Congress on Medicare and Medicaid (another lie).
- The data on top officers compensation is so obscured and fragmented, Eichenwald reported that he had found it much easier to discover executive compensation at Enron, Worldcom and Adelphia – all famous for lying on tax filings. Again no small feat (to be one of the top corporate liars in the U.S).
- Officers “double dip” – former CEO Christ