Tahoe Forest CEO Opinion: Laws govern what information we can release
This opinion column is in response to Jim Ritchie’s piece, “A suggestion of transparency for Tahoe Forest Hospital District,” published April 7 at SierraSun.com.
Dr. Ritchie raises important issues regarding public access and availability of information related to physician misconduct, disciplinary history and provision of physician health insurance information to patients to ensure cost data and that they are in network.
He suggests however, that the hospital should offer this information to the public. While we agree that the public should have access to a physician’s quality and disciplinary actions, only the state government has control for release of this information about medical professionals to the public.
Disciplinary actions against physicians can be accessed online through the Medical Board of California, (www.mbc.ca.gov) or on the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners’ (www.medboard.nv.gov) website.
Consumers can also preview a physician’s training, experience, sanctions, and results of patient complaints by visiting any number of websites, including http://www.healthgrades.com.
California law currently prohibits hospitals from employing physicians, but they may contract with physicians.
As mandated by both state and federal laws, all licensed independent practitioners must endure a comprehensive and vigorous credentialing process to verify their training, experience, and demonstrated competence to determine if they qualify before they are able to contract with a hospital and practice medicine in a community.
TFHD cannot provide any more information than the state currently makes available to the general public on misconduct or disciplinary actions taken.
The suggestion of provision of a physician’s health insurance plans and contractual details by the hospital to patients in advance of care is also a problem.
Existing law prevents most hospitals from employing physicians and ensuring they are in the same insurance networks as the hospital.
Physicians are not required to disclose to the hospital which plans they contract with and at what rates. Therefore, a hospital cannot determine a patient’s out-of-pocket cost — although we try to estimate these costs as closely as possible.
The issue of public access to this type of information rests with the state and its licensing and disciplinary agencies. Hospitals do not manage many physician financial arrangements and therefore do not have access to information such as health insurance details.
A California Senate bill was introduced in February 2016 into the legislature that promotes such a legal provision, SB 1252 (Stone, R-Murrietta).
Harry Weis is Chief Executive Officer of Tahoe Forest Health System. He may be reached for comment at email@example.com.