When a physician does not practice medicine in New York, but still has an inactive New York license, is disciplined by another state or pleads guilty to a crime, in another state, New York retains the ability to publicly discipline the physician. This is so because, in my view, New York wants to increase its statistics to show that it is being vigilant in protecting the health care of New York residents. Note that the physician cannot simply surrender his/her license as New York maintains this authority regardless of the fact that the physician may have not treated anyone in New York for thirty or forty years.

So, when there is a disciplinary action in another state, that is “unprofessional conduct” by definition, and New York, through the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, OPMC, will contact the physician and will try to settle the matter with a Consent Agreement. The state will basically say that since the physician has been found to have committed unprofessional conduct the only question will be the amount of the penalty let us agree to a penalty and save the physician the time and expense of fighting the matter at a Hearing.

However, you must actually know what is going on here. New York will offer an Agreement that calls for, typically, a Censure and Reprimand and a small fine and since that is the lowest level of discipline available, the doctor will often want to sign it just to avoid the inevitable. But, please be certain that you read to the very end of the Consent Agreement. Buried in the middle of the Agreement will no doubt be the requirement that the physician must “…register and continue to be registered with the New York State Education Department and that the licensee shall pay all registration fees.”

In other words, the physician has now also committed to paying to register his/her active license and paying the renewal fee every two years. Since that fee is currently $735.00 it is obvious that this can total up to thousands of dollars worth of unwanted medical license fees over a career. To make matters worse, the language in the Agreement will also force the physician to fill out and maintain a New York State Physician Profile and to continue to update that Profile until retirement.

What New York will not tell you, is that if you go to a Hearing, the Hearing Committee which will decide your case actually does not have the authority to force you to renew your New York license. The Committee can recommend a Censure and Reprimand and a fine, but they simply have zero ability to tell you to activate your license, and the same holds true for the Physician Profile.

As is obvious, if New York is going to ask for a Censure and Reprimand at the Hearing, you might as well go to the Hearing as opposed to signing the Consent Agreement, because at the Hearing you will get the Censure and Reprimand and, maybe, a small fee, but you will not have to reactivate your license and pay the fees until you have retired.

You also have the opportunity to ask the Hearing Committee to dismiss the charges against you in “the interests of justice.” This does not happen often, but I was successful once in a case of a criminal conviction in another state.

I personally feel that it is actually unethical for New York to insist on the activation of the license in their Consent Agreements when they know that they cannot even ask for that to happen at the Hearing.

In any event, as they say about playing golf, “If you are going to play this game, you have to know the rules.” The same concept applies to dealing with New York State and the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, OPMC.