Thursday, September 20, 2012


SB 863 provides for an Independent Medical Review system to replace the current Utilization Review (UR) system. Under the current system, wrong and harmful decisions can be appealed in court. Under the new system, the IMR doctors will have their names protected so that attorneys won't know the names of the doctors who will now enjoy even more power than their UR predecessors. The IMR doctors will only be able to be challenged based on allegations of bias, fraud, or conflict of interest. Trouble is that it's nearly impossible to assert bias, fraud, or conflict of interest without a name. It appears that the new law will enable IMR doctors to participate in bias, fraud, and conflict of interest. Was this legislative slight-of-hand an accident of sloppy bill-writing or something worse?

In France, prior to the Revolution in 1789, the nobility had the power to issue "lettres de cachet" which enabled accused persons to be tossed into The Bastille without a trial and without knowing the names of their accusers. We should not accept a system in California that relies on ghost-doctors whose names are kept secret from applicant and defense attorneys.

Keep in mind that UR  doctors are not required to be licensed in California. Neither will IMR doctors be required to be licensed in California. Non-California licensed doctors who render IMR decisions that control the treating  doctors will not be responsible to the Medical Board of California whereas the actual treating doctors will be. Is that equitable?

Although the UR and IMR doctors are responsible to their own state boards, those boards don't have jurisdiction in California. A similar issue arose in Texas and was cured when Texas passed legislation to require Texas medical licensure of doctors doing utilization review in Texas. As matters stand now, Texas doctors without California licenses can practice utilization review in California even though the Medical Board of California has stated that doing utilization review constitutes the practice of medicine. But if California doctors want to do utilization review in Texas they're obliged to be licensed in Texas.

If SB 863 looks like a stacked deck, that may be because it is. 

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