The House Commerce Committee is crafting legislation that would revamp the National Practitioner Data Bank so that the public could have access to unflattering information about physicians, MODERN HEALTHCARE has learned.
The databank tracks disciplinary actions and malpractice judgments against doctors. The 1986 federal law that created the databank permits only hospitals and HMOs to use it in their credentialing procedures and shields the information from the public.
Sources familiar with the draft legislation said the proposal borrows from models used by states like Massachusetts that publish reports of alleged physician misconduct.
The draft bill also would allow physicians to write a 4,000-word rebuttal or explanation to accompany any public reports about malpractice judgments or disciplinary actions taken by state medical boards or hospitals, said the sources, who requested anonymity.
The bill could be introduced by House Commerce Chairman Thomas Bliley Jr. (R-Va.) as early as Sept. 5, when Congress returns from its month-long summer recess. Bliley held hearings earlier this year to discuss whether to open the databank to the public (March 6, p. 2).
Calls to Bliley's office were not returned by deadline.
Both Bliley and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who championed making the databank public when he served in the House, have said they would like to pass bipartisan legislation to make the databank more useful to consumers.
The American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association oppose opening the databank in its current form to the public. Patient advocacy groups like Washington-based Public Citizen and the Allentown, Pa.-based People's Medical Society favor public access to the databank.