Nov. 18 – CONCORD – A House and Senate oversight committee on Friday approved the concept of legislation to give the public more information about doctors being disciplined for their actions.
However, the proposal does not go as far as malpractice victims’ advocates would have liked.
After a short session, the Health and Human Services Oversight Committee approved a subcommittee report recommending two bills on the issue.
Lawmakers will bring those proposals to lawmakers, but only after making a key change to one of them on Friday.
In its original form, one of the proposals would have prompted the State Board of Medicine to disclose the names of physicians who have not received voluntary license revocations or suspensions from their employers.
State Senator Bob Giuda, R-Warren, said this may encourage some hospital leaders and doctors to enter into voluntary agreements that would remain private.
Rep. Jeff Salloway, D-Lee, agreed with Giuda, calling it an “unintended consequence” of the writers.
The term “non-voluntary” has been removed from the bill.
The New Hampshire Union Leader and The Boston Globe reported in September the lack of information available on the New Hampshire Board of Medicine’s website about physician disciplinary and malpractice payments made by them or their insurers.
The union leader reported in September that at least 29 New Hampshire doctors had made payments related to New Hampshire malpractice claims that were not reported on the State Board of Medicine’s website.
More than 50 other Granite state physicians had made malpractice payments for cases in states other than New Hampshire, including Massachusetts, that were reported on those states’ websites, but not New Hampshire’s.
Victim advocates argued that this law should also require the state to publish a 10-year history of all medical malpractice settlements reached with their clients.
The bill requires disclosure of all wrongdoing decisions in court, but advocates for victims said 90% of awards come through settlement hearings rather than after a court hearing.
The New Hampshire Hospital Association and attorneys representing doctors claimed the extent of this disclosure could unfairly tarnish doctors.
Different approaches depending on the state
The New Hampshire Medical Society said its review found not all states are releasing these cases.
The group’s own investigation of 67 medical boards across the country concluded that 19 publicly disclose hospital discipline matters, 23 report out-of-state actions and 27 report misconduct settlements.
State Representative Mark Pearson, R-Hampstead, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, supports the proposed bill.
“Throughout the process, everyone involved wanted the same thing: to protect those whose medical practices and the facilities that employ them are exemplary, and to protect the public from those who are not,” Pearson said.
Pearson stressed that these issues will continue to be subject to extensive scrutiny by lawmakers in the coming months.
The second bill would create a Medical Transparency Oversight Commission to review all rules for investigating, disciplining and reporting incidents of medical malpractice.
Under the proposal, the 11-member committee would consist of three lawmakers, three attorneys, four medical industry representatives and the state director of professional licensing and certification.
“I don’t believe in commissions. Conflicting interests may be able to push a proposal aside much more easily than legislative committees to which all these parties are invited,” Giuda replied.
“There is a potential for conflict when it comes to an interest group that, out of self-interest, doesn’t see it going in a certain direction.”
Pearson said he didn’t think that would happen on the matter.
“Personally, I’m not afraid that this commission will do that, and should it do it, any lawmaker can say, ‘One pox on you, I’ll file a bill.'”