Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/06/2003 09:04 AM Senate FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     SENATE BILL NO. 43                                                                                                         
     "An Act extending the termination date of the State Medical                                                                
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Co-Chair Wilken read an explanatory statement as follows.                                                                       
     Senate Bill 43 extends the State Medical Board eight years to                                                              
     June 30, 2011. This extension matches the Division of                                                                      
     Legislative Budget and Audit's recommendation.                                                                             
PAT DAVIDSON,  Director, Division  of Legislative Budget  and Audit,                                                            
explained the  unusual request to  extend the term of the  Board for                                                            
eight  years. She  told of  the previous  eight-year  extension  and                                                            
noted that  the Board did not wait  until the lapse date  renewal to                                                            
proceed with changes,  which was beneficial to the  operation of the                                                            
Senator Taylor  asked number of licensed  the Board has revoked  and                                                            
"at what level" the Board is conducting investigations.                                                                         
Ms.  Davidson indicated  she  would provide  the  number of  revoked                                                            
licenses. She stated that  it is difficult to evaluate the amount of                                                            
time spent  on investigations of each  occupation board because  the                                                            
Division of Occupation  Licensing retains investigative staff, which                                                            
is not assigned  to one particular  board. Therefore, she  explained                                                            
the  amount  of  time  allocated  to individual   investigations  is                                                            
weighed against the priorities of all the boards.                                                                               
Senator  Taylor commented  that  the  Alaska Bar  Association  could                                                            
provide  the exact  details  on  investigations  and the  number  of                                                            
attorneys disciplined or  disbarred. He ascertained from discussions                                                            
with members  of the  State Medical  Board that  the Board does  not                                                            
revoke  medical licenses.  He expressed  interest  in learning  "how                                                            
long and how deep the old boys club runs in Alaska."                                                                            
Senator Olson  assured that the Board has taken licensure  action in                                                            
the recent past.                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde  told of two high profile  cases involving  revocation                                                            
of licenses for doctors practicing in the Anchorage area.                                                                       
Senator  B.   Stevens  referenced   page  11  of  the  Division   of                                                            
Legislative  Budget and Audit, which  listed 413 investigations  and                                                            
the number of cases closed in the last three years.                                                                             
Ms. Davidson interjected  to point out that multiple  complaints are                                                            
sometimes reported against one physician.                                                                                       
RICK   URION,  Director,   Division   of   Occupational   Licensing,                                                            
Department  of  Community and  Economic  Development,  testified  in                                                            
support  of  the  bill. He  stressed  that  the  Board  does  revoke                                                            
licenses  and that  many  investigations  are ongoing  with  actions                                                            
pending. He noted  that the two Division investigators  dedicated to                                                            
matters  relating to  the medical  field  handle 60  percent of  the                                                            
Division's  investigations.  He asserted,  "We  are overloaded."  He                                                            
told of  time delays  in the  investigative process  and efforts  to                                                            
reduce these delays.                                                                                                            
Mr. Urion  remarked that  the State Medical  Board "has done  a very                                                            
good job." He  compared the Division's office size  and condition in                                                            
Anchorage  to  the   considerably  larger  Alaska  Bar  Association                                                             
Senator Bunde asked the  cost of a State medical license. He assumed                                                            
the fee is based on the cost of investigations of the Board.                                                                    
Senator Olson answered the cost of a license is currently $600.                                                                 
Mr. Urion furthered  that statute requires that the  fee be based on                                                            
a two-year  average  of investigative  expenses.  He noted that  the                                                            
investigation activities  have been considerable higher than average                                                            
in the past year and the  Board is subsequently $90,000 over-budget.                                                            
He  anticipated  this would  "average  out" over  the  next year  or                                                            
license fees would be increased.                                                                                                
Senator  Bunde asked  the  process to  obtain additional  staff  and                                                            
better facilities if necessary.                                                                                                 
Mr.  Urion responded  that  such changes  could not  be implemented                                                             
during the current fiscal  year, but stressed that improvements must                                                            
be done eventually as the system is "bogged down".                                                                              
Senator Bunde  wanted to  know if these improvements  could  be made                                                            
without impacting the State general fund.                                                                                       
Mr. Urion affirmed  the intent is to increase license  fees to cover                                                            
the additional expenses.                                                                                                        
Senator Taylor commented  that the physicians would "have the amount                                                            
of enforcement that they want to pay for."                                                                                      
Amendment  #1: This amendment  changes the  termination date  of the                                                            
State Medical Board from 2011 to 2007.                                                                                          
Senator Olson moved for adoption.                                                                                               
Co-Chair Wilken objected for an explanation.                                                                                    
Senator Olson  relayed that as a member of the State  Medical Board,                                                            
he identified areas in  need of improvement. He told of changes made                                                            
the previous session to  the locum tenens law intended to streamline                                                            
the process to  attract and retain additional physicians  to Alaska.                                                            
He wanted  an opportunity  to measure the  success of these  efforts                                                            
after a four-year period.                                                                                                       
Mr. Urion favored  the later termination  date. He pointed  out that                                                            
the boards  are always  subject to legislative  evaluation  and that                                                            
audits could be ordered at any time.                                                                                            
Senator B. Stevens  asked if the locum tenens law  could be reviewed                                                            
in four years without requiring an extension of the Board.                                                                      
Senator Olson  replied that the locum tenens law is  only one of the                                                            
issues that must be reviewed,  citing the witness's indications that                                                            
the investigative process needs improvement.                                                                                    
Senator Bunde  supported the  amendment due  to the workload  of the                                                            
Legislature  each year.  He predicted  that unless  the termination                                                             
date requires  an  extension, the  review of  these related  matters                                                            
could be overlooked.                                                                                                            
Co-Chair  Wilken asserted  that he  supports  the amendment  because                                                            
Senator  Olson, a physician,  recommends  that this  is in the  best                                                            
interest of the people of Alaska.                                                                                               
Senator  B.  Stevens asked  if  the  Board has  issued  an  official                                                            
position on the preferred length of the extension date.                                                                         
Senator  Olson did not.  He informed  that the  Board membership  is                                                            
undergoing transition.                                                                                                          
Co-Chair  Wilken predicted  that if  the Board  opposes the  amended                                                            
extension   date,  testimony   could  be   presented  as  House   of                                                            
Representatives  committees   consider  the  bill.  He  removed  his                                                            
objection to the adoption of the amendment.                                                                                     
The amendment was ADOPTED without objection.                                                                                    
Senator  Taylor offered  a motion to  report SB  43 as amended  from                                                            
There was no objection  and CS SB 43 (FIN) MOVED from Committee with                                                            
individual recommendations  and accompanying $729,700 fiscal note #1                                                            
from the Department of Community and Economic Development.                                                                      

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