Legislature(1999 - 2000)
05/12/1999 03:27 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.