Menu Close

Four bills dealing with reform at the Medical Board of California and related issues passed out of the State Senate a few weeks ago. The Board that regulates doctors is facing sunset review this year, meaning it will cease to exist if lawmakers and the governor don’t reauthorize it.

An oversight hearing in Sacramento in March raised the issue of lax controls over doctors who overprescribe pain medications, spurring three bills in addition to the core legislation to overhaul the program to make it more effective.

The Sacramento Business Journal reports that Senate Bill 304 sailed out of the Senate May 28 by a vote of 35-2. The bill by Sen. Curren Price would move medical board investigations to the Office of the Attorney General and make other changes. The idea is to put medical board investigators in the same place as prosecutors who specialize in handling doctor discipline. Talks continue between Curren and board staff on how to tighten control and increase efficiency at the agency.

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 670 by Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a measure designed to better protect the public from unscrupulous doctors who abuse their power to prescribe drugs. The bill would allow the medical board to inspect and copy medical records of deceased patients to determine if the death resulted from a doctor violating the law without a court order or consent of next of kin. SB 670 also gives the board authority to speed up license suspension orders during investigations if the doctor was allegedly overprescribing drugs or if behavior related to drug prescribing has led to the death of a patient.

To facilitate these actions, Senate Bill 62 by Price would require coroners, if they receive information that indicates the cause of death is the result of prescription drug use, to file a report with the medical board. This bill passed out of the Senate by a vote of 39-0.

Senate Bill 809 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier faced some final hurdles but sailed out of the Senate with a unanimous vote May 30 after its urgency clause was dropped and added back. If approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor, the bill seeks to save and modernize the Department of Justice’s Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (Cures) to monitor drug prescriptions for overuse – and overprescribing – of narcotic painkillers. SB 809 would impose a 1.16 percent licensing fee increase on prescribing health care providers, create an annual fee on narcotic drug manufacturers who do business in California and authorize the Department of Justice to see grant funding from health insurance plans and workers’ compensation insurers.