Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Despite the fact I have not lived or practiced medicine in West Virginia for several years, I have held a West Virginia license but am now planning to go inactive or surrender it. Apparently I am not alone:

The $1,000 fee doctors are required to pay to support a physicians' mutual may clear up whether there is a shortage of physicians in West Virginia.

Not every doctor who holds a West Virginia medical license practices in the state. Some keep their license after they retire, while others retain them even though they have moved out of the state.
Some of these doctors may relinquish or inactivate their licenses rather than pay a $1,000 fee to help fund a physician's mutual insurance program in the state, said Evan Jenkins, a state senator and executive director of the West Virginia Medical Association. The mutual was authorized two years ago.

"A lot of doctors both because of this legislation and other factors are saying, 'Thank you, but no thanks' to having a West Virginia license," said Jenkins, D-Cabell

This assessment has been in place since last year. But since there was no defined penalty for not paying the assessment many, including myself, did not pay. The West Virginia Board of Medicine (WVBOM) went so far as to explain that the legislature merely made it a "collection service" for the fees. Well that is no longer the case:

The 2003 legislation aimed at curbing rising malpractice rates included a provision for the creation of the physician's mutual to administer insurance, eventually taking over for the state's Board of Risk and Insurance Management. Because some doctors did not pay the fee, the Legislature revisited the issue in 2004, establishing penalties of a $250 fine and suspension of license for anyone who has not paid by July 1.

A wide variety of exemptions were allowed (military service and academic physicians for example) and some new ones were allowed:

An exemption was added for doctors with inactive licenses, which state Board of Medicine Executive Director Ronald Walton said is one reason 89 doctors had inactivated their licenses this year as of May 4, compared to three in all of 2003.

"This most recent activity is a direct result of the law being passed this past legislative session," he said.

An inactivated license means a physician cannot practice medicine in the state, Walton explained. However, reactivating the license is easier than acquiring a new one if the original license has been surrendered, he said.

Still, 190 physicians surrendered their licenses in 2003, and 42 had done so this year as of May 4.

Another problem with this is that if a sufficient number of physicians surrender or go inactive, the WVBOM may experience a funding shortfall (the fee for renewal is $300 and the fee for an inactive license is $100).

One silver lining is that there may be an accurate number of physicians practicing in West Virginia now, which will prove or disprove the assertion of tort-reform advocates that the tort crisis is driving physicians out of West Virginia.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?