A new bill was recently introduced in the House of Representative in an effort to amend the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1996 (HCQIA) to require greater due process rights for health care professionals before any reports are made to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank (NPDB).
According to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the bill, H.R. 2472, seeks to counter hospitals’ current practice of reporting adverse actions taken against physicians regardless whether the physician had been afforded a hearing or adequate notice about the investigation. According to supporters of the bills, rather than granting physicians an opportunity to defend themselves against these actions, hospitals have been bypassing these due process steps and reporting the actions to the NPBD. Reports to the NPBD have proven to be extremely detrimental to physicians and have resulted in a number of physicians losing their careers.
The bill amends 42 U.S.C. 11133(a) to prohibit a review entity from reporting to the NPDB while the physician is under investigation. Also, the bill would bar a hospital’s ability to submit a report to the NPDB before a physician is afforded a hearing and adequate notice of the adverse actions taken by the hospital. The amendment also seeks to change the current immunity power of a professional review body. The current HCQIA grants the professional review body immunity from actions taken against it even if the reviewer fails to follow the guidelines for adequate notice and hearing procedures described in the Act. The new bill may provide a means for a physician to bring a cause of action against a professional review body when the entity has failed to provide the required notice and hearing prior to filing a report to the NPBD or if the entity has conducted a “sham” peer review.
In addition to a right to notice and a hearing, the bill also seeks to amend 42 U.S.C. 11112, which would afford the physician and his or her attorney the right to copies of all evidence that a hospital intends to present at a peer review hearing. This amendment would allow physicians and their counsel a greater ability to defend themselves at a hearing.
If you are a physician and need assistance defending against any adverse actions before a peer review hearing, or have any medical staff privilege, or Data Bank reporting questions, please contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at 248-544-0888.