TMB Drops Death Certificate Fines

Physicians already fined by the Texas Medical Board (TMB) for not filing death certificates electronically will get their money back, and pending cases will be dismissed because of physicians' problems in registering to use the state's registration system.

TMB was fining physicians $500 for not complying with a 2007 state law that requires all physicians who sign death certificates to register in the Texas Electronic Registrar (TER) Death Registration system, maintained by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Vital Statistics Unit. Some 150 physicians were facing TMB discipline.

"We are refunding the fines that we levied so far and are dropping the pending cases and not pursuing action on those," said TMB spokesperson Leigh Hopper. In early October, Sens. Robert Deuell, MD (R-Greenville), and Jane Nelson (R-Lewisville) asked TMB to delay disciplining physicians for not using the system. Ms. Hopper says the board responded by deciding to not take any action until the end of the 2011 session of the Texas Legislature. She said TMB's decision against fining physicians came "because of the problems that we're hearing in terms of registering and the delays in getting their passwords."

TMA President Susan Rudd Bailey, MD, thanked Senators Deuell and Nelson for their efforts on behalf of physicians in getting TMB to delay its enforcement efforts. "Many physicians have told me they're having a tough time using the death registration system," she said. "It's not their fault there are problems, and they don't need the TMB looking over their shoulder and threatening to fine them."

As Texas Medicine reports this month, DSHS acknowledges problems with the system. Victor Farinelli, Central Texas area representative for the Vital Statistics Unit, said it typically takes the state 15 to 20 business days to issue a user name and PIN to a newly registered physician so that he or she can use the TER system and file certificates electronically. Mr. Farinelli told Texas Medicine that DSHS is trying to expedite the registration process, but limited resources hamper the efforts.

TMA has received numerous complaints from physicians about various problems filing death certificates electronically.

DSHS spokesperson Christine Mann said about 70 percent of the death certificates in Texas are being filed electronically. She said issuing user names and passwords to physicians take time because DSHS staff must go through a lengthy process to verify the information a physician submits when he or she registers with the system.

Action, Nov. 16, 2010

Last Updated On

May 12, 2016

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