Sacramento, CA – Legislation to improve oversight of dangerous doctors and give consumers rights at the Medical Board of California was approved by the California Assembly Business & Professions Committee with a 10-5 vote today despite heavy lobbying in opposition by the California Medical Association.
The bill, SB 815 by Senator Richard Roth and Assemblymember Marc Berman, is the strongest bill reforming the Medical Board of California to make it through legislative policy committees in many years, said Consumer Watchdog. Its final committee hurdle is Assembly Appropriations next month.
“This bill contains long-overdue reforms that recognize patients’ right to have preventable injuries and deaths investigated by state regulators, and provides the funding to make that possible,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog. “For too long, investigations into patient harm and death have been dismissed prematurely or dragged out beyond reason. This bill begins to put the Medical Board of California back on track to patient protection.”
SB 815 would:
- Ensure the board gets all the facts of a case by requiring an interview of the patient, or family member, before their complaint is closed. Most complaints are closed with no interview.
- Give patients a voice by allowing them to make a victim impact statement to the board, and creating a Complainant Liaison Unit to facilitate communication with families.
- Adjust California’s standard of proof for most doctor discipline, to bring the state in line with that used by 41 other state medical boards, improve board investigation speed and efficiency.
- Improve procedures at the Board that cause delays and unnecessary costs, including: a pause on the statute of limitations when doctors fight subpoenas; consequences for doctors who refuse interviews or coerce patients into not testifying; and longer wait times, and Board reimbursement, for petitions to reinstate a revoked license.
- And, Fully fund the Board’s operations. Doctor licensing fees have increased just $80 in 17 years; the Board faces insolvency without the full increase proposed in SB 815.
The bill was amended in committee to remove a provision that would have changed the balance of power at the Board by giving it a public member majority, a loss for patients said Consumer Watchdog. The bill never addressed another to priority of patient advocates: Greater disclosure of doctors’ complaint and disciplinary histories.
Initial findings of the Medical Board Enforcement Monitor, released in March, confirm that the Medical Board’s investigations of doctors are hamstrung by funding shortfalls. The report also highlighted how prosecutions are undermined by a crippling division between investigators and attorneys currently housed in different agencies. The Final Report of the Enforcement Monitor is due this month and will be a starting point for additional reforms, said Consumer Watchdog.
Consumer Watchdog works with a team of volunteer patient advocates from across the state whose own experiences with medical negligence have spurred them to fight for better laws to protect other Californians from harm.
Meet these families, hear their testimony, and read their stories and those of their loved ones, here https://consumerwatchdog.org/meet-the-advocates/ and here https://consumerwatchdog.org/meet-the-patients/.
Download Consumer Watchdog’s letter supporting SB 815 here.