Strengthen and Renew the Texas Medical Board

TMA Testimony by Michelle Berger, MD  

HB 1504 by Rep. Paddie
House Public Health Committee

March 13, 2019

Madam Chair and members of the committee, I am Doctor Michelle Berger. I am an ophthalmologist practicing in Austin and a member of the Texas Medical Association Board of Trustees. On behalf of TMA and our nearly 53,000 members, I am testifying in favor of House Bill 1504.

First, TMA and our physician members support a strong Board, a strong agency – but one that is fair and transparent. We believe this bill advances these principles for both the public and the profession. At the same time, we would favor the inclusion of three items we believe are consistent with the bill and provide some clarity. 

One, expedited licensing. The bill includes language to establish an expedited licensing process – not a replacement for the current processes, but one aimed specifically at recruiting and licensing physicians from other states. In examining what has been proposed, we believe a simpler and more easily explained criteria can be adopted. We would suggest three criteria for expedited licensure:

  1. The physician must have completed a residency training program and passed the initial Board Certification exams;
  2. The physician must have a minimum of five years with an unrestricted license in his or her current state; and 
  3. The physician must not have been the subject of a disciplinary action by the current licensing board and must not be currently under investigation by any licensing board or law enforcement.

If you meet these criteria, please consider Texas. It’s a great place and we need you!

Two, vacating order. Our proposal would require TMB to overturn and vacate a temporary suspension or restriction as soon as practicable after a State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) judge determines that TMB failed to prove the violation that served the basis of the temporary suspension or restriction. Our suggestion offers more protection than the current one in the Sunset Bill, because it would require TMB to (1) remove any mention of the suspension/restriction from the physician's public profile; and (2) contact and inform any entity, including the National Practitioner Data Bank, that had been previously notified of the suspension/restriction that it has been overturned and vacated. In fairness, the report should be removed, not merely modified.

Three, public profile and remedial plan. This is our suggestion to ensure that the most accurate information is available on the physician's public profile. 

It requires TMB, within 10 working days of a final disposition, to: (1) remove any public record of formal charges or an investigation if ultimately TMB determines no violation occurred; and (2) update the physician's public profile with a final order from SOAH regarding an alleged violation and remove any prior information relating to the underlying violation. 

The final order contains the most accurate information. Anything prior to this, such as the disciplinary panel action, is outdated and may not be accurate. This happens when certain initial charges may be dismissed while others are confirmed by SOAH. Publishing just the final order ensures accuracy on the physician's profile. 

In addition, this also requires TMB, during its annual update, to remove any content regarding remedial plans or disciplinary actions regarding minor administrative violations (actions not related to quality of care concerns) if the physician has successfully completed the requirements imposed by TMB. We also propose the elimination of the one-time limit on remedial plans and instead grant TMB discretion to issue remedial plans for minor administrative violations when appropriate.

Madam Chair and members, I thank you for the opportunity to testify today and I appreciate your willingness to consider our suggestions.

86th Texas Legislature Letters and Testimonies

TMA Legislative main page

Last Updated On

March 13, 2019

Originally Published On

March 13, 2019

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