As the Chair of the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, Senator Curren D. Price, Jr. (D-Culver City) sent a strongly-worded letter to Sharon Levine, President of the Medical Board of California (MBC), questioning their enforcement of regulations that protect consumers from dangerous physicians.
The letter, co-authored by Assemblyman Richard S. Gordon, Chair of the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committees, was sent to the MBC to emphasize “the critical importance” of addressing the issues raised in the Joint Sunset Oversight hearing held on March 11.
If the Medical Board doesn’t comply with the directives issued by the committees, the law extending the MBC will not be continued and the MBC will be dissolved as of January 1, 2014.
“Enforcement issues with the MBC have been a strong focus of the California Legislature for a number of years,” the letter stated. “It is imperative that the MBC take swift and certain action to protect consumers.”
During the Joint Oversight Hearing, the legislators heard testimony from the MBC in response to the issues raised in a background paper prepared by the committee. They also listened to representatives from various consumer groups and organizations.
“Consumer groups have criticized the MBC for its failure to protect patients from doctors who overprescribe dangerous drugs. The media has also raised serious questions about the consumer protection performance of the MBC in protecting consumers from dangerous physicians,” the letter stated.
Among the issues the letter addressed, were enforcement program shortfalls exposed in a 2012 LA Times investigative report which examined cases where medical doctors continued to practice and prescribe medication to patients when multiple patients of the doctor had died of an overdose of drugs prescribed by the doctors. The letter also clarified MBC’s authority to initiate complaints against a physician and take a proactive approach to enforcement
Other issues addressed in the letter were:
· Instances where the MBC settled cases with disciplined physicians for penalties or conditions, which were below the MBC’s own Disciplinary guidelines.
· Vertical Enforcement Prosecution to align MBC investigators with prosecutors.
· Adoption of Uniform Substance Abuse Standards.
· Eighteen unfilled enforcement positions authorized by the Consumer Protection Enforcement Initiative to reduce the length of time for MBC to discipline licensees.
· The need for greater oversight of surgical clinics established in Senator Price’s SB 100.
· More effective use of interim suspension orders (ISO) to immediately halt the practice of very dangerous doctors
“As health care reform is implemented under the federal Affordable Care Act in California, it is imperative that the MBC take a more proactive approach to its consumer protection mission,” said Senator Price. “The consumers deserve a proactive medical board that places patient protection and interests first ahead of physicians’ interests.”