By Shannon Dart
On December 30, 2022, the Medical Board of California (MBC) submitted its final Sunset Oversight Review Report to the legislature. The Sunset Report updates the legislature on past sunset issues and outlines current issues facing the Board.
In its Report, the Board stated that the current issue facing the Board is the possibility of financial insolvency. The Board reported that its financial position has continued to atrophy since the Board’s last Sunset Review Report was published. In a letter from MBC President Kristina D. Lawson to Senator Richard D. Roth and Assemblymember Marc Berman, the Board urged legislators to approve the Board’s proposals for continued financial resources to combat insolvency, calling the Board’s financial stability its highest priority in 2023. The Board also stated that a higher fee amount was necessary to maintain the Board’s budget than originally necessary, and the Board was required to take out two additional loans on top of the loan they were granted by the Bureau of Automotive Repair in Fiscal Year 2021–2022 (page iv).
One way the Board is addressing the fiscal deficit is by introducing electronic wallet cards. All licensees are allowed to create their own Pocket License Cards beginning April 2022 that are available for personal and/or professional use. The use of Electronic Pocket License Cards allows the Board to shift the cost of card production to licensees and allows licensees to receive a hard copy of their license card instantly instead of waiting 4-6 weeks for a plastic card in the mail. The Board also stated that research is underway on forming digital license cards through apps like Apple Wallet and Google Pay that automatically update a licensee’s card when their information is updated (page 16).
Another proposal put forth in the Report is the creation of a new staff unit to help guide consumers through the complaint process. The “Complainant Liaison Unit” would supplement the Board’s existing enforcement personnel and improve communications with consumers about the Board’s mission and enforcement programs and processes. Responsibilities would include communication with consumers prior to filing a complaint, support throughout the process, and evaluating complaint closure review requests. Staff project that the Liaison Unit would require adding four new Board employees (page 186).
The Board additionally addressed its ongoing efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, renaming the former “Death Certificate Project” to the “Prescription Review Program” (PRP). The PRP proactively investigates deaths due to the prescription and overdose of opioids and conducts a full field investigation into the prescribing physician and the prescribing history. As of October 5, 2022, the Board, through the use of the PRP, has determined that street drugs, through illegal means of obtainment, account for a large percentage of the opioid cases they investigated (page 18).
The Board’s Report also listed changes in staff leadership. In late 2022, former MBC Executive Director William Prasifka resigned. No permanent replacement for the position of Executive Director was found; however, Deputy Director Reji Varghese currently fills the position while the Board begins the selection process at the beginning of 2023 (page 14).
The Board’s Sunset Review Oversight Hearing is set for March 16, 2023, at 1:30 p.m.