Senate Bill 304, legislation that moves California Medical Board Investigators to the Department of Consumer Affairs and extends the existence of the Board for four more years, is headed to the Governor’s desk.
CSLEA and investigators with the Medical Board of California (MBC) were closely following the bill as lawmakers amended the legislation and decided which state agency would investigate dangerous doctors and related medical professionals. Amendments last month removed enforcement reform that would have moved MBC Investigators into the Department of Justice.
Currently MBC’s Enforcement Program exists under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). MBC investigators are peace officers who enforce the provisions of the Medical Practices Act and are tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct on the part of doctors and other selected medical professionals. Medical Board investigations are currently reviewed by the Deputy Attorneys General (DAG) within the Health Quality Assurance Section of the Department of Justice(DOJ). The Deputy Attorneys General also have the responsibility of litigating discipline cases against doctors under a concept known as Vertical Enforcement.
The authority for the MBC to investigate physicians was due for sunset review this year by the legislature consistent with state law. As a result of issues identified in the review of the MBC program, former Senator Curren Price sponsored Senate Bill (SB) 304. SB 304 initially proposed moving investigative positions currently within MBC to DOJ thereby enhancing communication between DAG and investigators working Medical Board cases, allowing for sharing of databases, consolidating office space and maximizing resources. Advocates of this move argued that these changes would result in investigations being completed faster and thereby making the state more responsive to the public. The practical effect of this change would have been to reclassify investigators to special agents which would have increased salary and benefits.
Opposition to this bill increased along the way primarily due to financial issues. MBC estimated that initial reclassification and relocation costs could reach as high as $1.2 million. Legislative analysts also reported that the state could expect ongoing costs of $1.8 million due to increased salaries in addition to the $2.5 million continuing expenditure to maintain the vertical enforcement program. Due to these costs, the bill was opposed by the Department of Finance.
CSLEA questions the effectiveness of this legislation given that it does not address the Vertical Enforcement problems by having investigators reporting to both their internal chain-of-command as well as DOJ review. SB304 passed the Legislature and is on its way to the Governor for action. CSLEA will be seeking to meet and confer with DCA regarding the impact of the change.