Thursday, August 07, 2008

In defense of my Father.

Over at "The Provocateur", Mike Volpe has made some very serious allegations against the character of my father, Dr. Fred Merian of Wimberley.

Mr. Volpe, even though you claim that the only thing you claimed my father was doing was "concurrently serving on a super secret board and President of the TMA at the same time." The fact is you accused him of far more.

But, I will address your claim first. Was he on a "super secret" board at BCBS of Texas? Well, my father has never made it any secret of his position with BCBS. He served on that board prior to his election to the Presidency and he still serves on it. What does this board do? According to my father it is an advisory board, they meet for one day every other month. A simple Google Search of the site pulled up quite a bit of information on it. Including this description:

The Texas Medical Advisory Committee and the Texas Peer
Review Committee serve in an advisory capacity to the Medical
Director and HMO Blue Texas regarding health care delivery
issues that affect members and participating network Physicians
and other Professional Providers. The Committees participate in
the development, implementation, and evaluation of required
peer review activities.

Now, this is how you described it:
This committee reviews the performance of other family physicians that are contracted with Blue Cross Blue Shield and determines if any have stepped out of bounds. Furthermore, this committee is intimately involved in determining proper punishment for those physicians that Blue Cross Blue Shield determines to have stepped out of bounds
Big difference. But, you offered no proof for your allegations against this board. Also, it is clear you never contacted Dr. Merian, Dr. Curran, Dr. Miller or Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas. You claim this board is "super secret" and as evidence point to the fact that there is no website for this group, nor a rooster of any kind. Guess what, there is no website or rooster for BCBS' housekeeping department either, does that mean it is top secret? No, just that there is no website.

Now, it is obvious this board is not "super secret" so we will move on to some of your other allegations against my father.

You also alleged:
Three doctors, Dr. Doug Curran, Dr. Keith Miller, and Dr. Fred Merian, were simultaneously in significant positions of power in the Texas medical community. Dr. Curran was the head of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Miller was head of the Texas Medical Board's Disciplinary Committee. Dr. Merian was head of the Texas Medical Association. At the same time, these three were also members of the super secret BCBS Texas Medical Advisory Board. In other words, they were playing both sides of the fence. They represented the interests of doctors, and at the same time represented the interests of BCBS against doctors.
Dr. Curran was not sworn in as President of the TAFP until 2006, and he served 1 year (not several years as you claimed), Dr. Miller was not appointed to the Board of Medical Examiners until 2003. And my father took his office as President of the TMA in 2002, and he also only served one year. So, you are wrong in alleging that these three men held their offices simultaneously. Also, the President of the TMA while being the visible face of Doctors in Texas, holds NO power outside the TMA. The TMA is not involved in the certification, regulation or discipline of Doctors in Texas. It is also not involved in negotiating with insurance companies for doctors, nor in the distribution of benefits. Therefore, there is no conflict of interest. Besides, that is a determination for the TMA Board of Directors, the ethics committee and house of Delegates. Both of which were aware of my fathers position, neither of which objected.

Physicians advisory boards advocate FOR doctors. You asked how I knew such boards existed? Simple internet search. (and, I have worked in or around the insurance industry for over 10 years, there are all kinds of advisory boards) Here is the information for the board at Aetna Insurance. The kicker? 19 state Medical Associations asked for such a board to be created. If such boards were so Anti-doctor, why would 700,000 Doctors demand such a board be created? They wouldn't.

The next allegation, although directed at Doctor Curran, is also applicable to my father:

How does a doctor centered in a relatively small town wind up finding himself in the middle of so much disciplinary and decision making power? The answer is that these three were put there by BCBS to corrupt the system to punish private family physicians in Texas that BCBS determined were too expensive.
My father practiced medicine in Yoakum, Texas (pop 6000) before moving to Victoria, Texas (pop 45,000). Your implication here, of course is that individuals from small towns are inherently unqualified to serve in high profile positions, and therefore can only reach those positions through corruption and collusion. Again, you make this statement with no proof to back it up. In order for your allegation (that my father was put in the Presidency of the TMA by BCBS) to be true, you need to be able to back it up. My father (and Dr. Curran) were elected to their positions by the membership of their organizations. You are accusing thousands of Doctors of selling out to BCBS, all the while offering no proof at all. But challenging me to refute it. This is a logical fallacy known as "Shifting the burden of Proof" The burden is on you to prove your allegations, otherwise they are invalid and not credible.

Mr. Volpe, you wrote a piece on my father and two other doctors without even making any attempt to contact them or BCBS. Your "facts" are rumor and innuendo, as well as assumptions. The reason no major media outlet has picked up this story is because there is no meat to it.


mike volpe said...

here is my response mr. merian...

as for the major media. you are not in a position to know why major media did or didn't pick it up. If major media relied on more than rumor and innuendo before publishing a story, the New York Times, wouldn't have asserted that John McCain might be having an affair with a lobbyist. The media relies on signficantly less than what I published for many of their stories.

It's not a surprise that you spent your entire time trying to disprove whether or not the BCBS medical advisory board is on the level. That, frankly, is a side issue to the story.

What you didn't disprove. What you didn't even address is the obscene sham peer review perpetrated upon Dr. Pigott by Dr. Keith Miller with help of Dr. Curran, two docotrs that you claim have an impeccable reputation. Nowhere in your piece do you dispute that Dr. Pigott should never have faced four years of constant attack from the TMB Disciplinary Board. Nowhere do you dispute that the charges against her, the centerpiece of my story and charges you don't even allude to, were nothing more than trumped up charges most likely meant to intimidate her.

Furthermore, you say absolutely nothing about the mountain of evidence that the TMB is totally corrupt. Dr. Pigott is likely one of thousands of doctors that was targeted by the TMB. I have written multiple stories about this and more can be found on the net as well. Furthermore, their misdeeds were the subject of a Texas Legislature investigation about a year ago.

I wrote a piece that is split into three parts and takes about twenty minutes to read. You wrote a piece in which you quote me for three paragraphs and attempt to disput things that are side issues in that piece. You never once address the central charge, was Dr. Pigott sham peer reviewed. You don't because you can't, because she was.

The problem for you is that if in fact, she was, that leads to other conclusions that are uncomfortable for you. Those conclusions lead to other conclusions and ultimately things can be inferred about your father.

Instead, what you do is focus on side issues, which taken out of context can be made to look all sorts of ways.

The only reason the subject of this BCBS Medical Advisory Board came up is because in the middle of a heated argument between Dr. Curran and Dr. Pigott, Dr. Curran said,

"Do you know that I am a part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Medical Advisory Board with Dr. Keith Miller and Dr. Fred Merian"

NOw,if this board is on the level, that is fine, but clearly, that is not the manner in which Dr. Curran portrayed it.

Again, if you believe the original story that I wrote, then you believe that Dr. Pigott was sham peer reviewed. You also believe that Dr. Curran attempted to stop her momentum in making the TAFP more responsive to the needs of private family physicians. You also believe that all of this happened at about the same time.

Finally, you believe that the perpetrator of the sham peer review, Dr. Keith Miller, the perpetrator of slowing down Dr. Pigott's momentum for private family physicians, Dr. Curran, also served on a board with your father.

As I have said often, my favorite latin phrase is Res Ipsa Loquitor, the facts speak for themselves.

You didn't dispute anything I just said. I will let those facts, that you didn't dispute, speak for themselves.

Shirley Pigott MD said...

Mike occasionally makes some factual or interpretation errors in his marvelous exposure of sham peer review. It has been my experience that as soon as he knows about anything even slightly misrepresented, he corrects it.

Where may I testify under oath that everything pertaining to me or that he learned from me is 100% true? No factual errors; no errors of interpretation.

kmerian said...

Dr. Pigott, thank you for your offer. However, I am not questioning your version of events. My father had nothing to do with your appearances before the TMB or the confrontations you had with Dr. Curran or Dr. Miller.

I don't know why Dr. Curran brought up my fathers name in his conversation with you. My problem with with Mr. Volpe's implications that my father did not earn his Presidency of the TMA or that he somehow compromised his ethics by being on the Texas Medical Advisory Board of BCBS. Rest assured my father had nothing to do with your difficulties.

mike volpe said...

Well then, with all due respect, Mr. Merian, you are being too sensitive and taking your venom out on the wrong person. It was in fact Dr. Curran that made the BCBS Advisory Board appear nefarious, not me. It was he that used it as a tool of intimidation. It was however, you, that vouched for his character along with Dr. Miller. That makes me wonder.

Given that your dad was mentioned four times in the story and nothing was said about him that you haven't, yourself, confirmed, you are taking out your venom at the wrong person.

If your dad got both his positions through hard work, then it was Dr. Curran that dragged his good name through the mud by including him in a group that was nefarious.

I would say that it is he that you should be going after, not me.