Three senators are asking the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the oversight provided by state medical boards after several recent media reports questioning the supervision of physicians in the country.
Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) sent a letter to Daniel Levinson, HHS inspector general, on Wednesday, calling on his office to undertake the review and assess the quality of state boards on a variety of levels.
The senators cited recent reports in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the New Haven Independent Connecticut Health Investigative Team,* all of which pointed to lax oversight of doctors in their states.
“Since the HHS-OIG has not issued a comprehensive evaluation of state medical boards in more than 15 years, it is critical that the HHS-OIG evaluate the effectiveness of state medical boards and provide recommendations to enhance their organizations’ efforts within each state and across state boundaries,” they wrote. “With the adoption of advanced medical technologies, such as teleradiology, and an increase in physicians holding medical licenses in two or more states, it is becoming increasingly important that states issue timely board actions and coordinate licensure actions to protect the public from unqualified or marginally proficient practitioners.”
The letter asks the inspector general to suggest ways to improve and to determine whether sanctions by Medicare against doctors are being reported to state medical boards and to the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federally run database of discipline imposed against doctors and other health professionals.
As readers of this blog know, AHCJ has taken a leadership role in criticizing the Obama administration for restricting reporters’ access to a public version of the National Practitioner Data Bank, used by the media to write stories such as those highlighted in the letter.
AHCJ regularly holds training sessions for members on how to better cover the quality of health professionals in their states.
* Correction: The senators’ letter incorrectly cites the New Haven Independent for stories that were actually written by Lisa Chedekel of the Connecticut Health Investigative Team, a nonprofit project of the Online Journalism Project.