California Medical Association Drops Objections to State Medical Board Reform Bill
The California Medical Association and Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) have reached a compromise on a bill that would require the Medical Board of California to disclose more information about doctors who have settled malpractice claims, the Los Angeles Times reports. The amended legislation could be considered by the Assembly Health Committee as early as Tuesday (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/2). As introduced, the bill would have required the disclosure of misdemeanor criminal convictions that could affect medical care, malpractice settlements against a physician that courts have upheld on appeal, training and specialty certifications and investigations referred to the state attorney general for prosecution. The legislation also would have added two more public members to the medical board, which currently includes 12 physicians and seven members of the public. In addition, the bill would have established an enforcement program monitor to evaluate the board's disciplinary system and report to lawmakers. In June, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee amended the bill to require doctors to respond to a medical board investigation within 10 days (California Healthline, 6/19).
To reach a compromise with the CMA, which objects to any disclosure of settlements, Figueroa amended the bill to include a provision that would allow the board to publish settlements on its Web site only if physicians in "low-risk" specialties, such as family practice, had three or more settlements of more than $30,000 against them over a 10-year period. Settlements against physicians in "high-risk" specialties, such as neurology, would be disclosed only after four or more settlements. The bill would apply only to future, not past, settlements. Settlement amounts would not be disclosed, but the board would indicate whether the figure was below average, average or above average compared with doctors in the same specialty. The amended bill also would close loopholes that allow physicians to avoid reporting settlements and legal judgements to the board. In addition, the compromise bill would require a physician to review a patient's complaint before it is disclosed by the board. The bill also would increase the penalty for practicing without a license and would allow automatic revocation of a license if a doctor is convicted of certain repeated sexual crimes. CMA Vice President Steve Thompson said the compromise legislation will ensure patients will be able to put settlements in context. "We think that is of more value than simply listing them all," he said (Los Angeles Times, 8/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.