Pennsylvania’s New Physician Licensing Compact

In November of 2015 I blogged about the proposed version of Pennsylvania’s Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act.  One year later, effective October 26, 2016, the Act has become Law. What does this mean for Pennsylvania’s physicians?

The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act (the “Act”) only applies to “Physician”, a person who:
1. is a graduate of a medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation or a medical school listed in the International Medical Education Directory or its equivalent;
2. passed each component of the United States Medical Licensing Examination or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination within three attempts or any of its predecessor examinations accepted by a state medical board as an equivalent examination for licensure purposes;
3. successfully completed graduate medical education approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or the American Osteopathic Association;
4. holds specialty certification or a time-unlimited specialty certificate recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Osteopathic Association’s Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists;
5. possesses a full and unrestricted license to engage in the practice of medicine issued by a member board;
6. has never been convicted, received adjudication, deferred adjudication, community supervision or deferred disposition for any offense by a court of appropriate jurisdiction;
7. has never held a license authorizing the practice of medicine subjected to discipline by a licensing agency in a state, federal or foreign jurisdiction, excluding an action related to non-payment of fees related to a license;
8. has never had a controlled substance license or permit suspended or revoked by a state or the United States Drug Enforcement Administration; and

9. is not under active investigation by a licensing agency or law enforcement authority in a state, federal or foreign jurisdiction.

Upon receipt of an application for an expedited license, the member board within the state selected as the state of principal license shall evaluate whether the physician is eligible for expedited licensure and issue a letter of qualification, verifying or denying the physician’s eligibility to the interstate commission. The following shall apply:
1. Static qualifications, which include verification of medical education, graduate medical education, results of any medical or licensing examination, and other qualifications as determined by the interstate commission through rule, shall not be subject to additional primary source verification where already primary source verified by the state of principal license.
2. The member board within the state selected as the state of principal license shall, in the course of verifying eligibility, perform a criminal background check of an applicant, including the use of the results of fingerprint or other biometric data checks compliant with the requirements of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the exception of federal employees who have suitability determination in accordance with 5 C.F.R. § 731.202 (relating to criteria for making suitability determinations).
3. Appeal on the determination of eligibility shall be made to the member state where the application was filed and shall be subject to the law of that state.

 

An important part of the Act is the joint investigation and disciplinary process. The law as enacted states:

ARTICLE IX JOINT INVESTIGATIONS
A. Licensure and disciplinary records of physicians are deemed investigative.
B. In addition to the authority granted to a member board by its respective Medical Practice Act or other applicable state law, a member board may participate with other member boards in joint investigations of physicians licensed by the member boards.
C. A subpoena issued by a member state shall be enforceable in other member states.
D. Member boards may share any investigative, litigation or compliance materials in furtherance of any joint or individual investigation initiated under the compact.
E. Any member state may investigate actual or alleged violations of the statutes authorizing the practice of medicine in any other member state in which a physician holds a license to practice medicine.
ARTICLE X DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS
A. Any disciplinary action taken by any member board against a physician licensed through the compact shall be deemed unprofessional conduct which may be subject to discipline by other member boards, in addition to any violation of the Medical Practice Act or regulations in that state.
B. If a license granted to a physician by the member board in the state of principal license is revoked, surrendered or relinquished in lieu of discipline, or suspended, then all licenses issued to the physician by member boards shall automatically be placed, without further action necessary by any member board, on the same status. If the member board in the state of principal license subsequently reinstates the physician’s license, a license issued to the physician by any other member board shall remain encumbered until that
respective member board takes action to reinstate the license in a manner consistent with the Medical Practice Act of that state.
C. If disciplinary action is taken against a physician by a member board not in the state of principal license, any other member board may deem the action conclusive as to matter of law and fact decided, and:
1. impose the same or lesser sanction(s) against the physician so long as such sanctions are consistent with the Medical Practice Act of that state; or
2. pursue separate disciplinary action against the physician under its respective Medical Practice Act regardless of the action taken in other member states.
D. If a license granted to a physician by a member board is revoked, surrendered or relinquished in lieu of discipline, or suspended, then any license(s) issued to the physician by any other member board(s) shall be suspended, automatically and immediately without further action necessary by the other member board(s), for ninety (90) days upon entry of the order by the disciplining board, to permit the member board(s) to
investigate the basis for the action under the Medical Practice Act of that state. A member board may terminate the automatic suspension of the license it issued prior to the completion of the ninety (90) day suspension period in a manner consistent with the Medical Practice Act of that state.

Any disciplinary action taken by the physician’s principle licensing board (their home state) shall, under House Bill 1619 of 2015, be deemed unprofessional conduct subject to discipline by other member boards in addition to any violation of the Medical Practices Act or regulations of the principle state. Revocation, suspension, or surrender of a license in lieu of discipline or suspension shall cause the physician’s license to suffer similar status by each and every member board to which that physician is licensed.

Conversely, however, any reinstatement of the physician’s license by his principal state medical board shall not affect the encumbered status of that physician’s license in other member states unless and until each member state takes individual action to reinstate my license. This provision allows each member board to conduct the practice of their medical board license disciplinary action independent of the Act. This process is different the current due process rules that require each state’s discipline of a multiple state licensed professional to be independent of, and not link to, any prior state’s discipline.

Any discipline action taken by the physician by a member board, not the principal license board, may be used by other member boards as a conclusive disciplinary action warranting imposition of the same or less or sanction or a separate disciplinary action by other member boards. As well, any license investigation by a member board that becomes the subject revocation, surrender or relinquishment in lieu of discipline shall cause the physician’s license to suffer the same consequences without any further action in each other member board without the subject to any disciplinary investigation. The physician truly becomes hostage to the initiating state’s disciplinary process and must fight it to the death so as to avoid any automatic domino effect.

The Act seeks to balance the states’ citizens’ need for medical care, a nation’s policy interest in granting access to high quality medical care to all citizens, and a physician’s ability to provide competent medical service regardless of artificial state borders against patient safety and criminally active doctors. The primary concern of the Act is who will become the disciplinary supervisor of doctors practicing throughout the country under the Act. While this is a serious and weighty issue, the Act in its current form fails to safeguard the medical license of Pennsylvania’s many doctors who will choose it as their primary state of licensure.

Pennsylvania’s medical schools have produced thousands of doctors over the years. Many secure initial graduate school training licenses and stay in the Commonwealth after residency to care for Pennsylvania’s residents. Many choose Pennsylvania as a home. The Act as drafted in House 1619 of 2015 will discourage this.

Physicians who seek to practice medicine in multiple states through the Act will sacrifice a significant degree of due process if any disciplinary investigation is commenced or levied against them. While there is significant financial interest to provide internet-based face time oriented medical practice across state borders without driving distances, to save lives, the inevitable due process concerns are significant. Exploding populations are overrunning medical investigatory boards with rampant anonymous complaints that will warrant investigation.

Every day baseless complaints of Medicare Medicaid insurance fraud, pill mills, sexual assaults, or drug theft and diversion are generated from specious reporters who are either aggrieved patients, angry disgruntled business partners, jealous or angry co-employees, or scorned lovers. House Bill 1619 of 2015 exposes Pennsylvania’s principle-based medical practitioners to unilateral concurrent disciplinary process of member states without the ability to respond, investigate, or even defend oneself in a court of law. Member state’s unilateral actions will automatically trickle back to the physician’s primary licensure state, causing potentially automatic disciplinary action there. The Act as written is not in the interest of Pennsylvania medical community.

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