Davis Signs Legislation To Reform State Medical Board
Gov. Gray Davis (D) on Sunday signed into law a bill (SB 1950) that requires the Medical Board of California to disclose more information to the public about doctors who have settled a series of malpractice claims, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Wallack, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1). The law requires 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. Under the law, the medical board will publish the information when physicians in "low-risk" specialties, such as family practice, have three or more settlements of more than $30,000 against them over a 10-year period. The board will disclose settlements against physicians in "high-risk" specialties, such as neurology, only after four or more settlements. The law applies only to future, not past, settlements. The board will not disclose settlement amounts but will inform the public whether the figure was lower than average, average or higher than average compared with doctors in the same specialty. The law also closes loopholes that had allowed physicians not to report settlements and legal judgments to the board. In addition, the law requires a physician to review patient complaints before the board receives them. The law also increases the penalty for physicians who practice without a license and allows automatic revocation of licenses for doctors convicted of certain repeated sexual offenses. The law also adds two public members to the medical board, which currently includes 12 physicians and seven members of the public. In addition, the law establishes an enforcement program monitor to evaluate the board's disciplinary system and report to lawmakers. The law also requires doctors to respond to a medical board investigation within 10 days (California Healthline, 8/2).
According to Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), who sponsored the legislation, the medical board reform law will allow the public to "better ... distinguish" a physician with a "real problem" from a "good one" (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1). Davis added, "There is no reason that this information should be kept secret from patients" (Office of the Governor release, 9/30). However, medical malpractice insurers said that doctors "might be more reluctant" to settle claims "if they knew the information could become public," which could increase costs, the Chronicle reports. The medical board will provide the information about malpractice settlements online and through a telephone hot line (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1).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.