In July 2012, the American Board of Internal Medicine (“ABIM”) implemented a policy change placing limits on how long a physician could be considered “board eligible.” This policy nearly ended the ability of many otherwise qualified physicians to become certified in internal medicine. In many cases, this also caused them to lose hospital clinical privileges or to not qualify for them.
Board eligibility and board certification are big deals in the medical community, as you know. A physician who is not board eligible or board certified stands to lose a lucrative career. Insurance companies will not allow the physicians on their panels; medical groups refrain from hiring them, and hospital medical staffs refuse them privileges. This then forces many physicians to open private practices on a cash-basis, a business model that may be impossible to sustain in today’s healthcare system.
Details of the Policy.
Prior to 2012, internal medicine physicians could practice medicine under the designation “board eligible” and still get hired by hospitals and get onto health insurance panels. Additionally, ABIM did not have a time limit on when a physician needed to become board certified. This allowed many safe, capable, and qualified physicians to provide health care to patients throughout the United States without having to become board certified, meeting hospital or insurance company requirements.
ABIM Sets a Deadline.
If the physician failed to become board certified within those seven years, then the physician could only regain their board eligibility by completing one-year of retraining. ABIM’s policy provided physicians who finished an internal medicine residency before 2012 a seven (7) year time period to become board certified in internal medicine. Many physicians did not even realize this rule applied until 2019 when the seven (7) year period ran, and applications began being denied.
With the ABIM’s policy change, many of those physicians have lost their board eligible status, lost their clinical privileges or had insurance contracts terminated. The term “board eligible” is no longer even recognized by the ABIM. Physicians are prohibited from even using the term any longer.
Retraining is required to be at a U.S. training program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (“ACGME”) or at a Canadian training program accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (“RCPSC”).
However, no such limited retraining program appears to exist. Many physicians who have been practicing for ten years or longer cannot apply for board certification because they are unable to find or complete an accredited training program that will retrain them for just one year.
So What Can You Do If You Missed the Time Limit?
An alternative is that a physician can submit a request for an exception from the ABIM’s 2012 policy. A physician can request that their board eligibility be extended to take the internal medicine board certification exam. The request for such an exception must be submitted to the ABIM’s Staff Credentials Committee. However, these exceptions are rarely granted.
If you are in a residency of fellowship program in internal medicine, be sure you do not forget about the seven (7) years limitation on applying for certification.
If you decide to petition for an exception to the time period for applying for, we recommend contacting a qualified health law attorney who has experience in dealing with the ABIM and can assist in preparing such a request. There is no guarantee of success, but at least you will have attorneys working for you who know what they are doing.
For even more information, read my prior blog here.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in investigations and hearings of all types. This includes board certification hearings, medical board hearings, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hearings, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearings, medical staff peer review and clinical privileges hearings, FBI Investigations, DOJ Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, Medicare and Medicaid overpayment demands and hearings, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. We also undertake civil litigation in the same types of cases.
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About the Author: Achal A. Aggarwal, M.B.A., J.D. practices health law with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office in the Orlando, Florida area. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com
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