Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/06/2003 09:04 AM Senate FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 43 "An Act extending the termination date of the State Medical Board." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. 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 Board. 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 offices. 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 Committee. 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.