Senator Fred Mills Renews Efforts to Restructure Boards

Senator Fred Mills has paired down last year’s effort to restructure the health care boards, and is proposing SB40 which contains several of the components of last year’s SB75, including adding a consumer member to each board and removing the professional associations from the board’s nomination process.

SB40 would transfer the extensive list of boards, commissions and agencies to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH). Included will be the boards for psychology, counselors, social workers, and the other 22 healthcare boards. These are the boards for dentistry, nursing, optometry, pharmacy, medicine, physical therapy, speech-language, addictive disorders, vocational rehab, behavior analyst and others.

SB75 would also remove repealed and obsolete cites and references and categorizes those entities statutorily created within the department.

The proposed law adds at least one consumer member to any board that did not previously have one and provides standardized eligibility criteria of consumers to serve on any board.
Present law provides for professional trade associations and other entities to select and submit nominees to the governor for board appointment.

The proposed law opens board nomination eligibility to any member licensed by the board who is interested and eligible. Proposed law requires the board to send notice to its licensees to fill board positions and submit the names of those interested and eligible to serve to the governor for board appointment.

Last year, SB75 included sweeping changes in the disciplinary processes of the boards, his measures fueled in part by the 2015 anti-trust decision of the Supreme Court, and Mills’ own views that boards have “virtually no detectable oversight.”

Mills’ previously explained to the Times, “… there has to be
a place for consumers and practitioners to go when they feel they haven’t gotten a fair shake from their boards.”

Perhaps the most dramatic change Mills proposed in 2017, missing from this year’s SB40, is in disciplinary hearings. Last year the Senator wanted to remove final adjudicatory hearing authority from the boards and transfer that to the division of administrative law. The Division of Administrative Law will preside over hearings in which a final action of the licensee is being pursued by the board.

For the 2017 failed proposal by Mills, “… final adjudicatory proceedings shall be transferred to the division of administrative law, that administrative hearings shall be held in the administrative law location closest in proximity to the licensee, and that venue for appeal of the administrative law judge’s ruling shall be the district court for the parish in which the licensee is domiciled.”

Another of Mill’s efforts in 2017 aimed to restrict board investigations to a one-year time limit. “If a board does not issue notice of an adverse or disciplinary action within one year from the date upon which a sworn complaint is received or, if no sworn complaint is received, within one year from the date the board voted to commence an investigation, the matter shall be dismissed. The one-year period shall be prescriptive.”

Senator Mills’ 2017 effort was stopped in the House Health & Welfare Committee after passing the Senate. At the committee meeting Mills said that there had been some misinformation and he clarified that the measure did not affect the duties or powers of the boards, or the scope of practice that some members of the boards had believed. He said that the changes are not new ideas. “Forty-four states have Administrative Law Judges for disciplinary hearings,” he said. “We don’t want you to be the sheriff, the DA, and the judge.”

“We revised the Ethics laws in 2008 and said that, as a body, we don’t want the sheriff and
the DA to be the judge and the executioner,” said Mills. “This bill is for the little man and the little woman. If you have to go in front of a full hearing, you should not go in front of a hearing that are those who’ve been investigating you.”

One source told the Times that psychology board members helped derail Mill’s 2017 effort. And sources said other boards also helped derail SB75. Ironically, in about that same time, a District Judge found that the psychology board’s investigation methods to be violations of due process.

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