Legislature(1999 - 2000)

05/12/1999 03:27 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSSB 29(RLS) - REQUIREMENTS FOR PHYSICIAN'S LICENSE                                                                             
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG announced that the committee's next order of                                                                  
business is CSSB 29(RLS), "An Act relating to licensure of                                                                      
physicians; and providing for an effective date."                                                                               
Number 1378                                                                                                                     
MARK HODGINS, Legislative Assistant to Senator Jerry Ward, Alaska                                                               
State Legislature, came forward to present SB 71 on behalf of the                                                               
bill sponsor.  Mr. Hodgins stated that SB 29 pertains to foreign                                                                
medical graduates applying for licenses in Alaska.  The bill                                                                    
increases their training from one year to three years.  It also                                                                 
deletes the citizenship requirement that they must be a citizen of                                                              
the United State or lawfully admitted for permanent residence.                                                                  
This can be done because of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and                                                             
Immigrant Responsibility Act which lays out a specific time period                                                              
that people must be in the country.  Most of these physicians would                                                             
require an H-1b visa that allows them to do some internship                                                                     
residency and receive the necessary training.  He noted that this                                                               
bill is supported by the Alaska Medical Board and the veterans'                                                                 
associations across the state.                                                                                                  
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked Mr. Hodgins to explain why the veteran's                                                                
associations endorse SB 29.                                                                                                     
MR. HODGINS explained that the Veterans Administration right now is                                                             
having difficulty filling certain medical specialty positions.  He                                                              
gave an example of a cardiologist position that could not be filled                                                             
with an American doctor.  Some foreign medical graduates applied                                                                
for the position.  These foreign medical graduates are only allowed                                                             
to treat patients in Veteran's facilities.  He pointed out that the                                                             
bill increases their training from one year to three years.  He                                                                 
stated that the Alaska Medical Board felt that it gave them a                                                                   
little more comfort to have an idea of the proficiency of these                                                                 
foreign medical graduates.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS referred to the sponsor statement on SB 29                                                                
which states that 43 states currently have a three-year                                                                         
requirement.  He wondered if that was done after the federal law                                                                
was passed.                                                                                                                     
MR. HODGINS stated that each state has had an opportunity to put in                                                             
their own time limit for training.  If SB 29 passes, Alaska will be                                                             
in compliance with 43 other states.  He said there is a letter from                                                             
Dr. Sarah Isto, head of the Alaska Medical Board, which lays out                                                                
the thoughts of the Alaska Medical Board on that issue and gives a                                                              
little background information.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI asked why osteopaths were listed as a                                                                  
specific specialty.                                                                                                             
MR. HODGINS indicated that osteopaths are specifically talked about                                                             
in the current legislation and, in order to be in compliance, they                                                              
need to be included.                                                                                                            
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG said, "Distinct academic disciplines, although,                                                               
meaning much the same end result.  And those guys are such snobs                                                                
that they wouldn't want to be confused."                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI asked if there was anyone opposed to SB
29.  She wondered if there are any other medical organizations who                                                              
are not in support of the bill.                                                                                                 
MR. HODGINS did not know.  He stated that there were some                                                                       
difficulties with SB 29 earlier when "we had the requirement of                                                                 
boosting up the medical internship and residency of American and                                                                
Canadian physicians."  He said the same problem would be                                                                        
encountered with SB 71.  Mr. Hodgins knows of no other organized                                                                
medical group that is opposed to SB 29 the way it is written.                                                                   
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if there was opposition to SB 71 because of                                                             
that or has the bill been changed.                                                                                              
MR. HODGINS said that portions of SB 71 had been in SB 29.  He                                                                  
stated that there was quite a bit of opposition to some of the                                                                  
items in SB 29.  Therefore, some of the items were removed and                                                                  
there have been no further difficulties with the bill.                                                                          
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG stated that he had spoken with Dr. Eyal Herzog,                                                               
a cardiologist employed with the Elmendorf Air Force Base Hospital.                                                             
Even though Dr. Herzog had spent several years at Columbia                                                                      
University in New York, without this change in this law he would                                                                
not be able practice.  Apparently, some of these physicians,                                                                    
because they are specialists, would be allowed to practice at the                                                               
Veterans Administration clinics and hospitals, but "we are not able                                                             
to use them because they don't have a state licensure."  He                                                                     
wondered if this is what is happening.                                                                                          
MR. HODGINS replied yes.                                                                                                        
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if there are two physicians in the state                                                                
that are not licensed, but would like to be and need this bill.                                                                 
MR. HODGINS stated that there are probably several medical doctors                                                              
that would like to see this as would several people in Bush                                                                     
communities.  The concern is having proper medical care for                                                                     
Alaskans, veterans and military personnel in Alaska.  He imagines                                                               
this would not affect a lot of different physicians.                                                                            
Number 1840                                                                                                                     
CATHERINE REARDON, Director, Division of Occupational Licensing,                                                                
Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCED), stated that                                                             
her division provides staff support to the State Medical Board.                                                                 
She said  DCED and the medical board both strongly support SB 29.                                                               
She pointed out that there is a zero fiscal impact.                                                                             
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if the medical board has the same opinion                                                               
about SB 71.                                                                                                                    
MS. REARDON answered in the affirmative.  She does not anticipate                                                               
testimony against SB 71.                                                                                                        
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG indicated the bill has metamorphosed from its                                                                 
earlier, more controversial nature.                                                                                             
MS. REARDON feels that it is very positively received.                                                                          
CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG announced that SB 29 would be held.                                                                           

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