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NPR Coronavirus Updates

One Medical's Coronavirus Vaccine Practices Spark Congressional Investigation

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Lawmakers are investigating a major health care provider that let people jump the line to get COVID-19 vaccines. They are following up on an NPR investigation of One Medical. Documents show that company administered vaccines to ineligible patients, some of whom had connections with company leadership. NPR investigative correspondent Tim Mak joins us now. Tim, good morning.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What do lawmakers want to know?

MAK: So basically, this is a subcommittee that's led by Congressman Jim Clyburn. This is the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. And what they're really looking for is evidence that the company intentionally distributed vaccines to ineligible patients across multiple states, which is, incidentally, one of the conclusions of an NPR investigation published about a week ago. One of the committee's concerns is that there should be an equitable distribution of vaccines, one that prioritizes those most at risk in society rather than the wealthy or well-connected. And so the committee is giving One Medical two weeks to provide documents about their vaccination practices. One Medical, of course, is a primary health care provider that is publicly traded and valued in the billions of dollars. Its business model is to provide tech-driven primary health care for members, who usually pay about $200 a year in annual fees.

INSKEEP: OK, so you pay this fee. You can go to the doctor when you need a checkup or whatever. They were also helping to get vaccines out there. But now here they are giving the vaccines to the wrong people. What does that mean for local health departments that were using One Medical as a distribution channel?

MAK: Right. Well, so we reached out to every local jurisdiction where One Medical does business. And we found that eight local jurisdictions have cut the company off from vaccine allocations or are not planning to work with them again in the future. So, for example, San Francisco County made the unusual move of not only halting the supply of vaccines to the company but also demanding 1,620 doses back. And San Mateo County said it had done an investigation and found that One Medical had vaccinated 70 individuals who were ineligible to be vaccinated at that time. It, too, stopped the allocation of vaccines to the company. So those are just a couple of examples.

INSKEEP: Hasn't One Medical denied that they knowingly vaccinated the wrong people?

MAK: Well, that's right. And it says that the response from these eight different departments of health and the situation it's in is largely the result of misunderstandings, that it was working with local partners to address any concerns. After I approached them about the news of this new congressional probe, they said that they are, quote, "confident that we will be able to clear up these misunderstandings." CEO Amir Dan Rubin made no apologies in a call with investors last week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AMIR DAN RUBIN: Regarding this story, though, we strongly refute these gross mischaracterizations. Any assertions that we broadly and knowingly disregard eligibility guidelines are not true and in contradiction to our actual approach.

MAK: But the communications obtained and published by NPR suggest that the company was aware. Medical providers across multiple states were sounding the alarm internally about One Medical's lax oversight over eligibility requirements. One of the documents show a senior One Medical staffer instructing medical providers, quote, "We are not policing."

INSKEEP: OK. So again, this story was broken on NPR a few days ago. And the news now is that a congressional subcommittee headed by Jim Clyburn of South Carolina will launch their own investigation.

NPR's Tim Mak, thanks so much.

MAK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.