The Texas Medical Board has a new method of resolving outstanding investigations, courtesy of the 2011 legislative session- the Remedial Plan. If you are a physician with an investigation pending before the Medical Board, you may very well encounter the Remedial Plan. They are being offered frequently. In some cases that will be good news , but contrary to how Board staff may sell it, the Remedial Plan is not suited for everyone.
Let me give an overview of the Remedial Plan. The Board terms the Remedial Plan as a non-disciplinary order. It cannot be offered in instances where the complaint concerns a patient death, commission of a felony, or an instance where a physician becomes sexually, financially, or personally involved with a patient in an inappropriate manner. The Remedial Plan also cannot assess an administrative penalty, or revoke, suspend, limit or restrict a person’s license. Typically the Remedial Plans include continuing education and/or the requirement to take the Jurisprudence Exam. They also could include non-restrictive terms like a physician chart monitor, and they virtually always carry a $500 administration fee.
Despite the limitations on when a Remedial Plan can be offered, there are still many circumstances that qualify, and this is borne out in how frequently Board disciplinary panels are offering them. They are being offered before Informal Settlement Conferences (ISC) in an attempt to forgo the need to hold a hearing. They are also being offered at ISC’s in lieu of other discipline. This all sounds like good news. It is a “non-disciplinary” order after all. However, one corresponding trend that does concern me, as an attorney that is now encountering these Remedial Plans quite frequently, is that Panels are offering Remedial Plans in circumstances where they otherwise would have dismissed the case entirely. The Board Panels feel too comfortable offering the Remedial Plan because it is “non-disciplinary.” It seems the Board Panel can justify offering a Remedial Plan in instances where they could not otherwise justify disciplinary action.
To be clear, there are instances where a Remedial Plan should be seriously considered. The most obvious case is when the physician clearly did wrong, and some sort of action by the Board is assured. However, if there is a chance of the case being dismissal, the choice is not as clear. If you find yourself in such a situation, a lawyer experienced in administrative law should be able to help you determine which category you fall in.
But why should you give it a second thought if it is a “non-disciplinary” order? First, it is still a public order, and as the Board rules exist now, it will stay on your online public profile forever. Anyone who looks up your profile will be able to find it. Additionally, your name will still appear in the Board’s newsletter, albeit in a list, set apart from the disciplinary actions. Second, we do not know how insurance companies, employers, and credentialing boards will treat the Board’s “non-disciplinary” order. There is a chance that they will not view it as non-disciplinary, and may use it as a basis to impose their own discipline, or deny employment or certification. Frankly, it is too early to tell how the Remedial Plan will be treated by these entities.
Ultimately, you should put some serious thought into the ramifications of signing any public order with the Medical Board. If you are a physician and faced with the reality of going before the Texas Medical Board, or responding to a Remedial Plan offer, representation from an experienced Texas administrative law attorney may help. Please feel free to call the Leichter Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your case with the Texas Medical Board -512 495-9995.