Sept. 22, 2016
Patient Safety Threatened by HHS Refusal to Close Dangerous Loophole That Allows Health Care Providers to Evade Malpractice Reporting
Statement of Dr. Michael Carome, Director, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group
Note: Late Wednesday, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a component the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), denied (PDF) Public Citizen’s May 2014 citizen petition to close a loophole — known as the “corporate shield” loophole — that has allowed physicians and other health care providers to evade having medical malpractice payment reports submitted to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The response follows Public Citizen’s lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in July to compel HHS to act on the petition.
HRSA’s denial of Public Citizen’s petition to close the corporate shield loophole represents an abject failure of the agency to act in the best interests of patient safety and public health. The agency’s terse denial letter offers little substantive explanation justifying its action.
The loophole that Public Citizen sought to close is not consistent with the federal statute that established the NPDB. It allows practitioners who were alleged to have committed malpractice to avoid having reports of a malpractice payment made on their behalf submitted to the data bank.
The NPDB was created to help ensure patient safety by providing a comprehensive, reliable information center concerning the malpractice payment and disciplinary history of physicians and other health care practitioners. The corporate shield loophole makes the NPDB’s information less complete, less reliable and less useful.
HRSA’s refusal to close the corporate shield loophole signals that the agency is less interested in protecting patients and more interested in aiding physicians and other health care providers who provide substandard or negligent care.