When the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, OPMC, investigates a physician, the matter can get to the stage where OPMC offers to “settle” the matter with a Consent Agreement. That means that OPMC will not prosecute the doctor, but the doctor will agree to some level of discipline. Many doctors are more than happy to sign this type of agreement because, from their point of view, a formal Hearing has been averted and there is no chance that the doctor will have his/her license revoked or even suspended for a period of time. But, if you, the doctor, think that is agreement will end your troubles you are sadly mistaken, because the aftermath of such an agreement can be disastrous and, accordingly, you and your attorney must understand the possible adverse ramifications of this agreement.
The problem is that while you have concluded your issue with OPMC, you might well have some very serious and costly events that arise after you have signed the agreement. The most serious issues occur if you have agreed to some type of “restriction on your license.”. This “restriction” can be the requirement to have a chaperone; your agreement to not prescribe controlled substances; the requirement to have a practice monitor who reviews your records and reports to OPMC, etc. The Consent Order is posted on the public OPMC website and the National Practitioners Data Base and it, therefore, becomes immediately known to your hospital, Worker’s Compensation, all of the HMO companies whose patients you see in your practice, Medicaid/Medicare and others.
Some or all of these entities can contact you within a matter of days of the posting of your Consent Agreement and things can truly go downhill for you at that time. Your hospital may terminate your staff privileges and, depending on your type of practice, that might put you out of business. You will probably be suspended immediately by Worker’s Compensation and, again, depending on your type of practice, that suspension might well have a drastic adverse impact on your ability to earn a living. The health insurance companies whose patients you treat will send you a letter stating that they are considering terminating your position as an approved provider for their insureds. Again, this action can lead to you having an empty office with no ability to see patients and therefore no ability to earn money. Also, if your case is serious enough, you can be placed on the Medicaid/Medicare Exclusion List. This situation, obviously, will be a disaster as you will not be able to be paid for treating Medicaid/Medicare patients, and for many physicians, that will be the end of their ability to earn an income.
So, the bottom line here is for you to understand these possible adverse outcomes before you decide to sign a Consent Agreement. The issue is whether you can survive as a physician if you sign the Agreement. If you cannot, then you will have to defend yourself at a Hearing with the hope that you can survive the Hearing by obtaining a better result there than you could have gotten had you signed the Agreement. The Hearings themselves are fraught with danger as one result can be the revocation of your New York medical license which, of course, would be a catastrophe. You can also keep your license after a Hearing but be disciplined in ways that are even worse than the terms offered in the Agreement.
The long and short of this is, that you, the physician, have to realistically calculate your chances of obtaining a better result at a Hearing than you might get if you sign the Consent Agreement. This is not a decision to take lightly, as your entire career is on the line. You have to discuss this situation in detail with your attorney and understand all of the ramifications of the choices you make. Understanding the consequences of each decision is mandatory if you want to make an informed selection of the various options that are facing you in such a situation.