Editor’s note: The following commentary was submitted by Dr. Debbi McInteer, President of the Rhode Island Physicians for Quality Care.
The interstate Medical Licensure Compact Bill (Senate S4297 and House H7771) has been introduced in the RI legislature that will forever change the practice of medicine in our state and it must be stopped.
Two organizations- Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) – seek to create another bureaucracy to control the licensure process for physicians paid for by the State of Rhode Island. It is being presented as a “parallel” licensure with “higher” standards that only 40-50 doctors (0.8%) out of 4,491 doctors in the state would consider using. Thirty percent of physicians would be ineligible to use it. It reportedly speeds up the licensing in participating states. This is wrong. There is no guarantee of higher standard and no guarantee of speed. There is a guarantee that this will cost taxpayers more money and actually make it harder to access physician level of care. All of this, so that 40 RI doctors could possibly practice faster with a conditional license — in Montana?
The bill also makes Maintenance of Certification (MOC) for physicians mandatory from the ABMS, likely affecting all doctors within 5 years as the “voluntary” process becomes mandatory and forces doctors to be required to participate in a Maintenance of Licensure Program by the FSMB. This will worsen the shortage of doctors our state already faces. The profitable program of the ABMS is already forcing doctors out of practice and out of their specialties. Most doctors are against the programs of the ABMS but they are inaccurately told by the FSMB and the RI Medical Society that the bill does not require doctors to participate in the MOC. It is a semantic point, but the reality is most doctors would be forced to participate in these unproven and expensive programs to practice medicine under this bill. For every doctor who cannot practice because of these very restrictive programs, up to 2,000 patients will lose access to medical care. Up to 30 percent of RI doctors are already ineligible to participate and only a handful reportedly would unwisely want to participate. The goal of any monopoly is to make “voluntary” become mandatory. These companies have been trying to link their profitable programs to doctors for years. This is their foot in the door.
Regardless of how many doctors find this “voluntary” program to get licensed in other states, the state of Rhode Island would be forced to pay fees to this new organization allowed to set the dues and assessments at whatever amount it wants – a blank check at taxpayer’s expense. The out of state Commission would not be accountable to Rhode Island Legislature and can make rules that will become law in Rhode Island without the Legislature’s input. Outsourcing of the legislative process would be detrimental to Rhode Island. The licensing renewal process will bury doctors in red tape. The result? Doctors will retire early and close their practices, eliminating many highly trained doctors of various specialties. This restricts patient access to healthcare and does not improve it. What doctor would want to establish a practice in our state without such a licensing program in place? Large out of state clinics are in favor of this bill because they anticipate bringing in telemedicine doctors to possibly replace your local doctor who might have gone out of business because of these programs. Insurance companies are already putting restrictions on who a patient can see. Thousands of patients could be without a local doctor and still paying the bill for it if we allow these monopolies to control the practice of medicine in Rhode Island.
At least 40 percent of states who introduced the bill last year have rejected the Compact, and more states are not even considering it, including Massachusetts. The power granted to the out of state Interstate Commission created by the Bill would supersede slate law so Rhode Island legislature loses control over the practice of medicine with this bill. Built into the bill are serious conflicts of interests, as the Commission is allowed to not only make rules but granted the ability to accept donations and gifts and obtain trademarks and patents. Money will be going out of the state at the Commission’s whim.
The FSMB, with an annual income over $40 million, and the ABMS, with assets over $400 million, claim to be “nonprofit” and are out-of-state companies that stand to make more profit from Rhode Island taxpayers and their doctors. They are pushing this bill hard – at the expense of doctors, their patients, legislators, taxpayers and all citizens of Rhode Island. No corporation should have the power over the practice of medicine in Rhode Island.
We urge you to sign the petition against this bill (https://www.change.org/p/rhode-island-state-house-rhode-island-state-senate-rhode-island-medical-society-oppose-the-interstate-medical-licensure-compact-bill-h5571) and join over 150 Rhode Island physicians who are against it.
For the health of Rhode Island, call your Senator and Representative and tell them you don’t want your doctor – or your health – tied to private monopolies who don’t have all of our best interests at heart.
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