Thomas “Randy” Lombardo, MD, has been a well-regarded cardiologist in the Beaumont, Texas, area for decades, but a look at his entry in the Medicare provider database would make anyone do a double-take.
It says he graduated from Gate City Medical College in 1981, which is a problem because the school was shut down in 1911 after its dean was found to be selling phony diplomas for $50.
Though it’s actually a data error, nonetheless it should have led Medicare to red-flag him for potential fraud, since that’s why school information is collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the first place. If that occurred, CMS would have learned he was indeed a real doctor with a real medical degree and perhaps encouraged him to correct the misinformation.
But nobody is looking at the data.
The Medicare provider database currently lists thousands of doctors and other providers as graduates from medical schools that have been defunct for about a century, a MedPage Today/VICE News analysis found.
“Obviously, the credibility of doctors’ education, especially as related to medical school attendance and graduation, is an important data point and a source for ‘flags’ as indicators that something is not quite right,” said Seto Bagdoyan, who directs audit services at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO recently issued a report about bad addresses and license verification culled from the same dataset, but didn’t look at defunct medical schools.
Without a medical degree from an accredited medical school, a doctor is ineligible to practice medicine, let alone bill Medicare.
Lombardo really graduated from his father’s alma mater, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1981, according to the Texas state licensure board. And he has a medical license in good standing.
When MedPage Today /Vice News told his assistant about the defunct college in his federal record, she gasped and said they had no idea it was there. They bill Medicare all the time and haven’t had a problem.
Indeed, Lombardo is one of the top billing cardiologists in Texas, according to Medicare records. He earned $882,000 from the program in 2013, the most recent data available.
Lombardo did not respond to multiple requests to be interviewed for this article.