Medical Board Votes to Disclose All Malpractice Settlements, Expand Public Access to Physician Information
The Medical Board of California on Saturday voted to disclose all medical malpractice settlements on the board's Web site and to "significantly expand public access" to disciplinary information on physicians, the Los Angeles Times reports. In the decision, the board "went further" than recommendations from a legislative committee that voted earlier this month to require disclosure of malpractice settlements larger than $150,000 and the names of physicians with three or more settlements of more than $30,000 over a 10-year period. State law currently requires malpractice insurers to report settlements larger than $30,000, and as a result, lawmakers would have to amend the law before the board's decision could take effect, the Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 5/13). The medical board also voted to disclose whether a physician is a registered sex offender and to make investigations of physicians public after the board refers the cases to the state attorney general's office, rather than "waiting for a formal accusation to be filed" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/13). The medical board approved the proposed disclosure requirements after an Orange Country Register report found that the board investigates only about 20% of the 10,600 complaints received from patients each year and does not disclose most complaints to the public (California Healthline, 4/25). The Legislature must approve the proposed reforms before they can take effect.
Medical malpractice insurers and the California Medical Association said that they "strongly oppose" reforms to the medical board's disclosure requirements. CMA President Dr. John Whitelaw said that the proposed reforms could "drive up malpractice premiums because physicians will more frequently refuse to settle" claims and may "drive patients away from good doctors and compound already severe health access problems" in the state (Los Angeles Times, 5/13). He added, "It would be an outrageous violation of any American's constitutional right of privacy, including physicians, if a public agency could ruin a career by disclosing unproven, speculative information" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/13).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.