coronavirus

House Panel Investigates One Medical for Allegedly Letting Rich Clients Cut Covid Vaccine Line

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  • A congressional panel is investigating concierge health-care provider One Medical for allegedly letting clients cut the line for a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • NPR reported last week that One Medical, a membership-based health-care provider, was not enforcing rules that would bar its clients from getting the vaccine.

A congressional committee overseeing the Covid-19 crisis has opened an investigation into concierge health-care provider One Medical over reports that it gave vaccine shots to family and friends of executives and to wealthy clients who weren't yet eligible in their states.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a letter Monday to One Medical CEO Amir Dan Rubin seeking documents on their vaccine allocation practices.

Because the supply of Covid-19 vaccines remains scarce, state health departments have been rationing doses to prioritized groups of people, mostly front-line health-care workers, the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions that put them at a higher risk. In the letter, Clyburn alleged that San Francisco-based One Medical "has repeatedly and intentionally disregarded vaccine eligibility requirements in multiple cities and states over the past two months."

One Medical, which has a market capitalization of about $6.4 billion, provides VIP health-care services to clients in exchange for a $199 annual fee. The company, which went public last year under the name 1Life Healthcare, operates in nine states and the District of Columbia, according to its site.

"Despite being warned that the company's lax oversight of vaccine eligibility rules was allowing ineligible patients to jump the line, One Medical has reportedly failed to properly implement an effective protocol to verify eligibility and instructed staff not to police eligibility," Clyburn wrote.

"I am deeply concerned that medical providers' refusal to adhere to vaccination prioritization guidelines and intentional diversion of doses to individuals in lower priority groups may cost more American lives and delay or even derail containment of the virus across the country," Clyburn wrote.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, speaks during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades | Bloomberg via Getty Images
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, speaks during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

Representatives for One Medical did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Shares of One Medical were down more than 1% in morning trading on Tuesday.

The congressional investigation comes after NPR obtained internal communications from the company last week that showed it routinely allowed wealthy clients and people with connections to company leaders to cut the line for the vaccine. In some of the cities that One Medical operates in, the company has been allocated thousands of doses of the scarce vaccines, NPR reported.

Complaints about the company have prompted regulators, including the Washington State Department of Health, to halt distribution of the vaccines to One Medical, NPR found.

"These reports raise concerns that the company may be exploiting the federally funded vaccine rollout to increase membership rates and generate fees, regardless of whether prospective fee-paying members are actually eligible for vaccination," Clyburn wrote in the letter to the company.

NPR reported that some health-care providers urged One Medical to change its practice.

"Why are young patients without health problems, on a trial membership ... allowed to book and receive a covid vaccine while healthcare workers are being waitlisted?" one medical professional asked in January, according to internal communications obtained by NPR. "I just saw two appointments for such."

In response to similar questions, employees were told not to bar patients from getting the vaccine.

"If this person sees themself in a tier that is being vaccinated, they can attest to that and make an appointment," Spencer Blackman, the director of clinical education at the company, said in a note to a doctor, according to NPR. "You don't get to make the decision if someone 'gets' [a] vaccine or not."

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