TMA supports a strong and fair Texas Medical Board. We need a strong and fair board to protect the patients of Texas, uphold high ethical and professional standards for physicians, preserve the significant health care tort reforms enacted in 2003, and maintain the professional image of all Texas physicians. We believe each of those goals is in the best interests of our profession and our patients.
We, too, have heard some physicians complain that they were the victims of unfair prosecution for minor violations or that they felt the disciplinary hearing process was unfair. As a result, TMA conducted a comprehensive review of TMB disciplinary activities. Similarly, the Harris County Medical Society conducted a survey of its members on these issues. We shared our joint findings and recommendations with the Texas Legislature and with TMB leaders. Three strong themes emerged:
- Physicians found to have committed minor administrative violations felt their punishment was unduly exacerbated when the TMB published their names in its newsletter along with the names of those found to have committed more serious violations that endangered patient safety.
- Physicians who were the subject of board investigations felt they did not receive enough information from the board to adequately defend themselves.
- Physicians who were the subject of board investigations felt they were not given enough time to respond to those allegations.
As a result of our work to date, TMB stopped publicizing in its newsletter the names of physicians who committed minor administrative violations. TMA continues to push TMB to give more detailed information, in plain language, to physicians accused of violating the Medical Practice Act.
In the 2009 Texas Legislature, TMA is fighting hard for additional improvements. These include:
- Curtailing the practice of accepting anonymous complaints against physicians by insurance companies.
- Requiring TMB and other licensing boards to abide by State Office of Administrative Hearings decisions in disciplinary matters.
- Increasing the time a physician has to reply to a Board inquiry.
TMA does not support House Bill 3816. We believe it would make our 2003 liability reforms more vulnerable to attack. We believe many of House Bill 3816's provisions would reduce medicine's professional standing in Texas and diminish the agency's ability to protect the public safety. Such as:
- The bill sets higher standards for TMB to prove a violation than for a personal injury trial lawyer to provide a medical liability case. The plaintiffs' attorneys will use this as one more argument in their campaign to reverse the 2003 liability reforms.
- The bill would make all complaints and adverse reports filed with the board - from the most frivolous to the most serious - available to the public as an open record. This could seriously damage the reputation and credibility of unjustly accused physicians - and provide ambitious trial lawyers with fodder for liability cases.
- The bill severely weakens the board's ability to sanction physicians for non-therapeutic treatment or prescribing. Our profession has come a long way since we pushed out the snake oil salesmen 100 years ago. We rely on rigorous, scientific investigation to determine which therapies work, which don't, and what risks they may pose to the patient.
The Texas Medical Association will continue to fight for a strong and fair Texas Medical Board. We do not believe House Bill 3816 is a step in that direction and so we will not support it.