Four months ahead of the start of the 2014 Legislative Session which begins January 14, 2014, Senator Phil Williams (R- Rainbow City) has prefiled the “Licensure Freedom Act”, SB 22, which would prohibit physician participation in any public or private health insurance plan or program or emergency department coverage as a condition of medical licensure.
The bill was a priority of Sen. Williams’ during the 2013 session and lacked only a floor vote before being sent to the Governor but other controversial bills on the agenda that day prevented its passage.
“The last thing physicians need is another bureaucratic hurdle to overcome just to treat patients,” Sen. Williams said. “Medicine is already the most highly regulated profession in this country – we need to be fostering a more attractive practice environment for physicians, not forcing new government mandates upon them.”
MASA supports the legislation because third-party interference into the medical licensure process should be prohibited. The origins of the legislation are rooted in a state of Massachusetts’ requirement tying physician licensure to acceptance of Medicare contract terms as-is. Clearly, this set a dangerous precedent allowing government and third-party intrusion into the medical licensure process.
“It doesn’t make sense for the granting of a medical license to be contingent upon anything other than the widely-established criteria set by the profession and appropriate licensing entities. As an attorney, the government should not be able to dictate to me what kind of cases I take, how many of those cases I take or how often I take them in order to be granted a license to practice law. The same should be true for physicians. Patient load, acceptance of insurance, etcetera – those decisions should be left up to individual doctors, it is not the government’s role to tell them how, where and when they can practice medicine,” Sen. Williams said.
The Medical Association fully supported Sen. Williams’ bill during the 2013 Session and has worked with him to make the 2014 legislation even stronger, including not only the same protections for physicians as before but also including a prohibition against holding compliance with meaningful use as a condition of medical licensure. The reason for the changes for next years’ bill was a move by the state of Massachusetts this year to require physicians to demonstrate meaningful use-compliance in order to complete the medical licensure process. Sen. Williams believes we should prevent this from happening in Alabama and that freeing physicians from unnecessary burdens could have a direct positive impact on the health of Alabamians.
“In the same vein [as the 2013 legislation], meaningful use and the fact that Medicare payments are tied to compliance – as laid out in the 2009 federal stimulus package – have no place in the licensure process. The more we can do to free physicians to practice to the greatest extent of their abilities the healthier we’ll all be and the better this state can become.”
MASA supports the legislation and will work to pass it in 2014.
Phil Williams, API Director of Policy Strategy, was a State Senator from Gadsden from 2010-2018. Follow him on Twitter at @SenPhilWilliams.