At Last, a Ray of Hope for Florida Health Professionals Who Have Paid Their Debt to Society After Criminal Conviction
The Florida Legislature unanimously passed HB 653 which relaxes some of the draconian exclusions enacted under SB 1986, which went into effect on July 1, 2009. SB 1986, which added provisions to Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, among others, prevented numerous healthcare providers from obtaining or renewing licenses based on prior criminal convictions, which could have occurred decades earlier.
As of this writing (March 16, 2012), HB 653 has been passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature, but awaits the Governor’s signature.
Under HB 653, the professional boards within the Department of Health (such as the Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Psychology, Board of Massage Therapy, etc.) now will, if signed by the Governor, only prohibit the renewal or granting of a health professional’s license, certificate or registration, if the individual:
1. Has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under Chapters 409 (Medicaid offenses), 817 (theft or fraud) or 893 (drug offenses), Florida Statutes, or similar laws in other jurisdictions, unless the individual successfully completed a drug court program for the felony and provides proof that the plea was withdrawn or the charges were dismissed, or unless the sentence and any related period of probation for such conviction or plea ended:
– For first and second degree felonies, more than fifteen (15) years before the date of application;
– For third degree felonies, more than ten (10) years before the date of application, except for third degree felonies under Section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes; and
– For third degree felonies under Section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes, more than five (5) years before the date of application.
2. Has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under 21 U.S.C. Sections 801-970 or 42 U.S.C. Sections 1395-1396 (federal Medicare & Medicaid offenses), unless the sentence and any subsequent period of probation for such convictions or plea ended more than fifteen (15) years before the date of application; or
3. Is listed on the OIG’s list of excluded individuals and entities.
This new legislation has the effect of reducing the period of time a health professional may be prohibited from holding a license because of a conviction for one of the enumerated felonies. Under the current law, there is a fifteen (15) year prohibition for all enumerated offenses. The new legislation, if signed, will reduce the period to as little as five (5) years for drug offenses.
However, it also broadens the reach of the current Florida law by including, for the first time, convictions under “similar laws in other jurisdictions.” This may now “catch” many to whom the Florida law did not previously apply.
HB 653 also allows individuals previously denied renewals under SB 1986 who at are now eligible for renewal to obtain a license without retaking and passing their examinations.
The latter requirement above, number 3, may present a “catch 22” for many health professionals. Usually, if a licensed health professional is convicted of a felony, loses his/her license or is denied renewal of a health professional’s license, this is reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB now includes reports previously made to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB). If this occurs, in most cases the Office of Inspector General (OIG) commences action to exclude the professional from the Medicare Program. This automatically places the health provider’s name on the OIG’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE). Therefore, most licensed health professionals, even if they are no longer prohibited from holding a license under numbers 1 and 2 above, may still be prohibited because of requirement number 3 above.
Doubtless, this lacuna (gap) in this legislation will require additional corrective legislation in the future.
As previously indicated, HB 653 is currently (March 16, 2012) awaiting the Governor’s signature.