The House Commerce Committee killed a bill Tuesday that would have given the state government the power to regulate wording on doctors’ name badges and advertisements.
The vote came down along party lines, with Republicans opposing it and Democrats supporting it.
Molly Steckel, lobbyist for the Idaho Medical Association, told committee members that with more treatment options available each day, consumers need to know who is treating them. “If you advertise your services as a health care provider, say who you are,” said Steckel. “That’s it.”
The bill would not have required that doctors wear name badges, but would have required that doctors who choose to wear tags to disclose their license type on their tag. The measure would have also required that name badges be of a proper size.
Under the plan, doctors would have also been required to disclose their licensure in all of their office locations, as well as in all advertisements. “This is a step toward transparency,” said Steckel.
Steckel cautioned that without proper regulation of advertisements and nametags, some customers could be duped into receiving bad treatment. “I would hate to see someone lose treatment time,” said Steckel. “Now, if someone chooses to go to an alternative care provider … that’s their choice. It’s America.”
The plan would have given area-specific licensure boards – the board of medicine for doctors, dentistry board for dentists – the ability to penalize those medical providers out of compliance with the bill. Boards could have even pulled doctors’ licenses, if they felt that to be the appropriate recourse for rule violation, though Steckel isn’t necessarily advocating for that.
“We would hope the licensure board would have a more measured approach,” said Steckel. “We’ve left those sorts of things intentionally broad. We want the boards to have a lot of discretion in how they handle this.”
Wayne Hoffman, head of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank, said that the measure would have unintended consequences. He said that medical centers might worry about violations over name tags and decide not to require employees to wear them to avoid violations. He also said that regulatory boards have better things to do than oversee name tags and newspaper ads.
“I don’t think that’s really what you want your regulatory boards to be engaged in,” said Hoffman.
Steve Millard, head of the Idaho Hospital Association, said that his group, which represents medical centers across the state, is supportive of the measure. Millard said the measure would promote transparency and security. “We think that’s very, very important.”
Democrats came down in favor of the measure, agreeing that the bill would protect patients. “I think it just adds a little clarity,” said Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, a former hospital worker. “It’s patient education. This is a good bill.”
Rep. Steve Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, said that he understands the idea of the bill, but thinks it’s too much. “This bill really goes too far,” said Hartgen. “For me it has some heavy-handed language.”
Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, said that even putting abbreviations of medical degrees wouldn’t help things because they are confusing. “Maybe I have lived on the farm too long, but they don’t mean anything to me,” said Lake, who said that possibly the state should instead require different colors for different medical personnel.
Administrative rules already prohibit doctors from using misleading, false, or deceptive advertisements.
Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com.