By Divya Sriharan
On October 5, 2021, the Medical Board of California (MBC) released its Annual Report for 2020–2021 to the public. The Annual Report updates stakeholders on new legislation and describes the Board’s work over the past fiscal year.
This past year, the Board focused on coordinating meetings and addressing other operational issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2020–2021 fiscal year, the Board received 7,798 license applications, issued 8,206 licenses, renewed 70,802 licenses, and received 10,103 complaints. In preparation for sunset review, which takes place every four years, the Board held two sunset hearings for the 2020–2021 fiscal year. The first was held on March 19, 2021, and focused on the Board’s enforcement program. At the second hearing on May 5, 2021, the Board reviewed its licensing processes. [26:2 CRLR 49–50]
This fiscal year, the Board increased the frequency of its public stakeholder meetings to engage in more dialogue between the Board and the public. At its April 21, 2021 stakeholder meeting, Bridget Gramme of the Consumer Protection Policy Center gave a presentation on tools consumers can use to communicate with the Board and how to amplify the public’s voice. The Board’s stated goal is to expand communication with public stakeholders to continue its mission of protecting consumers.
The Report includes updates on the Board’s licensing program, which sets requirements for licensure in California. This year, the Board focused on adapting to telework as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and improving the application process to make them more efficient. The Board attempted to streamline application processes and make applying more convenient by providing more electronic document submission options. The Board also made license transitioning more efficient for postgraduates trying to obtain a physician or surgeon’s license. The new applications simplify the process by eliminating the requirement that applicants provide documentation they already provided for their previous postgraduate applications.
The Board noted in its budget summary that physicians’ renewal fees are the primary source of revenue for the Board. The enforcement program accounts for 81 percent of the Board’s expenditures, while the licensing program accounts for eight percent. Notably, the Annual Report states that total revenue is $61,311,000, yet its expenditures are $73,357,000. The Report does not explain how those expenditures over revenues are paid for, nor what plan the Board has to cover those added costs.
The Board received 10,103 complaints this past fiscal year and managed them through the Board’s enforcement program. The Central Complaint Unit (CCU) worked to make the online complaint process more accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Report, the Board explains the process of complaint evaluation and the data for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, including that 42% of complaints received for the fiscal year were unactionable for reasons such as redundancy, lacking necessary information, and being beyond the Board’s jurisdiction. These complaints are closed without a referral for investigation, and the remaining complaints are subject to investigation and disciplinary processes. The Board also closed complaints based on insufficient evidence, lack of violation of the Medical Practice Act, no response from complainant when contacted for more information, and the passing of the statute of limitations. The Report ends with statistics on allied healthcare professionals, as well as a breakdown of the complaints received against physicians and surgeons, and statistics on substance abuse in the medical field.