BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT THE POSSIBLE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES FROM THE SIGNING OF A CONSENT ORDER WITH OPMC
If you are a physician and the New York State Department of Health, Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), is threating to bring charges of unprofessional conduct against you, there is an understandable desire to put an end to the whole process by agreeing to some type of sanction. This comes in the form of a Consent Order and in it, you will agree not to contest certain allegations of misconduct and the Order will spell out some type of punishment. In exchange, OPMC will terminate the case against you and you will not have to worry about it anymore. Or so you think.
The problem is that while OPMC may put the file away, other organizations may take action against you that you did not anticipate, which can be extremely damaging to you and your entire medical career.
Here are some examples of what might happen:
- Depending on the underlying circumstances, the Office of Inspector General may decide to place you on the Medicare/Medicaid Exclusion List. This will mean that your services cannot be billed to Medicare/Medicaid for a minimum period of five years. Depending on your type of practice, that listing might well mean the end of all or almost all of your ability to earn money. There is a method to determine in advance whether you will be placed on the Exclusion List and you have to investigate that issue before you commit yourself to agreeing to the Order.
- If you are Board Certified, will the Board take away your certification due to the sanctions in the Order and the underlying conduct? I have seen this happen in cases of improper sexual conduct and when the physician had to agree not to practice pending a rehabilitation for a substance abuse issue. Note that the taking away of your certification is in the hands of a few doctors on the Board and you are guessing as to how they might act given your particular case. The last thing you need is to wait for a group of doctors to decide whether in their opinion your conduct was such that you should be stripped of your Certification. If you do lose your Certification you, in turn, might be removed from the staff of your hospital if the hospital requires that all members must be Board Certified or Board Eligible.
- What will happen to your hospital privileges when the administration is advised of the facts that underlie the Order? For example, no one wants a physician on staff who has agreed to sanctions arising out of any number of issues, like substance abuse, fraud, sexual matters, falsifying qualifications, etc.
- You are listed as a provider for numerous HMOs and the question is, will they remove you as a provider given the facts and the sanctions spelled out in the OPMC Order? If you are removed, can you earn enough money to support yourself?
Of course, your alternative to signing the Consent Order with OPMC is to fight the charges. Depending on the facts of the case, you could end up with an even worse result at the OPMC Hearing, and that might end your medical career completely.
Suffice it to say, you have to really give a lot of thought to your situation if you are faced with OPMC issues. You want to end the inquiry as soon as possible, but before you do so, be certain that you understand all of the potential landmines that are waiting down the road after OPMC closes its file. You and your lawyer must make a determined effort to realistically evaluate your case and decide what should be done. Going to a Hearing at OPMC is not something anyone wants to do, but if you are going to avoid the Hearing and sign the Consent Order, be aware of the hazards that might be awaiting you in the future.