Are Illinois regulators lax on monitoring bad doctors?

Illinois state regulators are being accused of a severe lack of diligence in policing the holders of medical licenses in the state. In some instances, doctors who have repeatedly engaged in medical malpractice, or have even been accused by patients of sexual misconduct have been allowed to continue to practice.

The state of Illinois ranks 20th in the nation compared to other states regarding the rate at which serious disciplinary actions are taken against bad doctors. In one instance, a doctor with an Illinois medical license previously had an Oklahoma medical license revoked because of sexual misconduct. He was also convicted of a felony for a violation of controlled substance laws and he was barred from participation in federal medical programs such as Medicare as a result. He was involved in the settlement of approximately six medical malpractice lawsuits.

These and other problems with this physician could have been detected by Illinois regulators, critics allege, if they only monitored the National Practitioner Data Bank, an entity authorized by federal law for the purpose of preventing such problems from remaining undetected when doctors move to practice in different states. But Illinois does not regularly use this information source. Over the last 20 years, 215 physicians with Illinois licenses have had actions taken by hospitals or managed care organizations restricting or revoking their privileges, with no actions then taken by the Illinois licensing authority.

Illinois regulators claim that they cannot afford the $4.75 per inquiry fee it costs to investigate a doctor who has been entered into the database. Regulators also stated that the process to take disciplinary actions against doctors could take months. Critics say that this puts Illinois patients at risk of serious medical malpractice or abuse like sexual assault at the hands of these doctors, all to save a few dollars. Many other states afford this fee by increasing the costs of medical licenses.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Illinois urged to investigate doctors with tainted records,” Deborah L. Shelton, Feb. 11, 2012