House panel says documents show One Medical failed to give out COVID-19 vaccines ‘equitably’
Congressional investigators say San Francisco-based health provider One Medical failed to administer COVID-19 vaccines “equitably,” by pushing vaccine-seekers to buy memberships and prioritizing executives’ family and friends, according to documents released on Tuesday.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis published a memo accusing One Medical of taking advantage of its early access to vaccines in late 2020 and early 2021 and of having “flouted vaccination prioritization guidelines” that put at-risk populations first.
“One Medical’s failure to administer coronavirus vaccines equitably reflects broader struggles to reach vulnerable communities that plagued the early vaccine rollout,” the memo said.
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said the documents showed “unscrupulous conduct.”
“Troublingly but unsurprisingly, in the chaos and confusion of the Trump Administration’s mismanaged early vaccine rollout, self-interested vaccine providers like One Medical and its executives sought to take advantage of their possession of scarce doses to advance company interests and pad the bottom line,” he said in a statement.
One Medical, a membership-based practice, was given thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses to provide to its members across 10 states and D.C., early on when doses were not as available to the public. The company charges $199 for annual memberships, with most being through employers.
“One Medical made it easy to sign up for a vaccination by becoming a paying member and difficult to sign up for free, even as it subsequently succeeded in convincing at least 399 individuals who initially signed up for free to become paying members,” the memo said.
The committee cited an internal message from a senior executive that said, “maybe i’m being too opportunistic, but we should be really focused on how to capitalize on this visibility … how can we take advantage of the vacinne interest to conver to our other company objectives.”
The panel launched its investigation into One Medical in March following an NPR report that found the provider gave vaccinations to people who were considered ineligible for the shot. This prompted several health departments to stop sending doses to the company.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said in Tuesday’s memo that documents showed the company allowed remote employees, friends and family to get early vaccinations, alleging that One Medical’s leadership “was slow to act and inconsistent in upholding vaccine eligibility guidelines.”
A One Medical spokesperson called the memorandum “grossly unfair,” noting the company “was not given the opportunity to address the staff’s findings before the memorandum was released.”
“The early days of vaccine availability were unprecedented and difficult for the entire healthcare system,” the spokesperson said. “At One Medical, we endeavored to follow the vaccination eligibility criteria as they rapidly changed, often day-to-day and across states and counties. It was a challenge in a challenging time, and our eligibility checking processes responded and improved from the early days of vaccinations.”
The spokesperson labeled claims that One Medical used its vaccines to promote the company’s interests and convince more people to become members “false,” saying patients were not charged for a free trial membership when scheduling a vaccine appointment, and a majority of those vaccinated were not paying members.
The spokesperson also said the company “knows of no instances in which anyone was pushed out of line in order to fit in friends or family members” and has taken vaccination eligibility “extremely seriously.”
“One Medical, to the best of our abilities, adhered to the prioritization guidelines we agreed to,” the spokesperson said. “Any assertions that we broadly and knowingly disregarded eligibility guidelines are in direct contradiction to our actual approach to vaccine administration. Allegations that we did not adhere to prioritization guidelines – made in this report– are grossly untrue.”
— Updated at 4:36 p.m.