NYS to Publicize Physician Misconduct Investigations

January 30, 2020 | Eric D. Fader | Fraud and Abuse | Legislation and Public Policy

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State Agenda includes a proposal entitled “strengthening the oversight of physicians and other medical professionals to protect patients.” The proposal includes reforms to the procedures of the state Department of Health’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC).

The most controversial portion of the proposal would allow the state Commissioner of Health to confirm to the public whether physicians, physician assistants and specialist assistants are under investigation for misconduct. Current state law prohibits such disclosures. The Department of Health would also be able to disclose warnings that may be issued for minor and technical violations that do not rise to the level of prosecutable misconduct.

In a press release in response, Art Fougner, M.D., the President of the Medical Society of the State of New York, cautioned that “most complaints of alleged misconduct do not become actual findings of misconduct,” and that “an unproven allegation could linger forever in cyberspace, and permanently and unfairly scar a reputation.”

Gov. Cuomo’s proposal would also allow the Commissioner of Health to “summarily suspend” a physician’s license at the start of an investigation if the physician is deemed to be a risk to the public. The average OPMC investigation takes 307 days, which under current law allows “physicians who are potentially bad actors to continue to practice medicine, at grave risk to patients.”

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