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Madison Health & Health Care Law Blog

What are the licensing laws for doctors?

In order to legally practice medicine in Wisconsin, you must be properly licensed. The licensing process is not easy and requires you to follow several steps, including taking tests. It is done this way to ensure only those who are properly trained and knowledgeable are able to work in healthcare and provide safe care to patients. Anyone found practicing medicine without the proper license could face criminal charges.

According to the Department of Safety and Professional Services, you must fill out an application form to get your medical license. The application must be accompanied by specific documentation that proves you meet all the requirements for licensing. This includes proof that you have completed the education requirements. To become a licensed physician, you must graduate from an approved medical school and complete any postgraduate requirements. You must also pay an application fee.

How do health insurance companies affect health care?

You may think that when you go to the doctor in Wisconsin that it is your doctor making all your healthcare decisions. You may be surprised to learn that is not always what happens. In many cases, the decisions made about what medications to give you, what procedures to do, what tests to order and other practices are being made or at least heavily influenced by your insurance company. This is something that is very disturbing when you consider these companies are not staffed by doctors and medical staff.

According to US News and World Report, this happens because the insurance companies have so much control in the healthcare industry. They are, after all, paying the bills. They find many ways to influence your healthcare.

States file lawsuit to end ACA

The Affordable Care Act has been quite controversial since it was introduced and enacted by Congress under the Obama Administration. The individual mandate and tax penalty have been major sticking points. According to The Hill, when Congress ended the tax penalty under President Trump, it changed the previous Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. This has led to 20 states, Wisconsin included, to file a lawsuit that it is no longer constitutional. 

The allegations are that the ACA is no longer valid because the tax penalty was removed without removing the individual mandate. The states explain that requiring people to have health insurance is not a power Congress has. Having that mandate remain in the ACA as a core part of the law makes the whole law illegal. 

Avoid legal pitfalls in medical practice marketing

Gaining the right to practice medicine takes a lot of time, money and effort. Having cleared all the hurdles, maintaining the practice can be like walking on stilts. Myriad issues can surface from unexpected quarters, and if just one knocks a stilt from under you, it could be the end of your career as a doctor or nurse. Strong defense of your licensure may be required.

Accusations of malpractice, delivery of poor care, or inappropriate interaction with patients get the most media attention. What gets less press, but which can be just as devastating, is when someone levels charges of breaching medical ethics. Such allegations don't even always deal with your practice of medicine. Legal missteps in marketing and advertising can put a Wisconsin practitioner in the sanction crosshairs.

Can I sign a nurse practitioner contract before I finish school?

One of the hottest job opportunities in the medical field right now appears to be nurse practitioners. According to standings compiled by U.S. News and World Report, nurse practitioner jobs rank within the top five in terms of best occupations generally and in health care specifically. The pay is high. So is demand. Indeed, solid employment growth is projected for years to come.

This could prompt many considering this as a career choice to wonder what their possible contracting options might be. Unfortunately, it's hard to provide a simple answer. Every state has its own rules regarding this issue. Some states allow advanced-practice nurses to enter into contracts while in school, assuming licensure follows. Others require that a nurse have a current license to practice. Wisconsin is one of them.

Do non-compete clauses really have any teeth?

If you are a doctor or nurse in the medical field in Wisconsin, it is possible that you have faced a decision over whether to sign a contract that includes a non-compete agreement. Do you know what it means? Are you of the school of thought that holds that such provisions have no teeth, so signing is no big deal? Let this serve as a word of caution.

Wisconsin law allows restrictive covenants in employment contracts. Therefore, the question worth asking might not be whether such provisions have any teeth, but rather how might any court where a challenge is raised view the matter.

Supporting doctors and nurses in interstate practice

The idea of tapping into technology to expand delivery of medical care to a wider base of American citizens is not new. Many in the industry, including insurance companies, have understood the potential benefits of creating such infrastructure.

Those with experience in this area know that wrangling the technology and making it scale to the size needed to match demand is one hurdle that has held things up. Another one is the issue of extending doctor and nurse licensing to support interstate practice. As we noted in a previous post, this is something that has been a focus of lawmakers for a long time. Last year it became a reality.

What doctors need to know before signing on the dotted line

Gender bias is not acceptable. Unfortunately, it exists and the healthcare industry is not immune to its effects. Myriad surveys have shown that even as more women are becoming doctors, they continue to suffer pay inequity compared to men. They also suffer bias within their professional ranks, with research finding that female surgeons more likely than male surgeons to see referrals decline after a single negative patient outcome.

As we have noted before, surveys of women doctors also reveal that most of them feel they are at a disadvantage across a broad spectrum of medical industry issues – from performance evaluations, incomparable pay and even in contract negotiations. But, just as care delivery can be enhanced through solid advocacy on behalf of patients, data suggests that legal advocacy on behalf of doctors and nurses can enhance their financial well-being.

I'm named in a DSPS complaint, what happens now?

The road to becoming a licensed doctor or nurse in Wisconsin is not an easy one. Therefore, if or when you are named in a formal complaint about care delivery you've been involved with, it needs to be taken seriously. Because it is a legal process, working with an advocate who knows your profession and the law is important.

It's useful to be aware that if the Department of Safety and Professional Services initiates an investigation of you, it may be based upon an initial complaint. However, the scope of the probe likely won't be limited to that issue alone. Your entire career could come under scrutiny and any issue discovered could lead to disciplinary action. Here's what to expect if a complaint is filed.

Data shows Wisconsin among best states for doctors, for now

Wisconsin is a great place to live. The breadth of nature on display through all four seasons and the long continuum of cultural and entertainment experiences available make it attractive. It's also a great place to work, as we noted in a post earlier this year on opportunities for nurses. Is it any wonder that the same source that informed that post finds the same applies to doctors?

However, those with experience in the business and legal facets of health care are aware that just because the numbers seem to add up to a positive environment doesn't mean it is always smooth sailing. The health care seas are always changing, meaning that navigating choppy waters isn't restricted to the Great Lakes and myriad smaller bodies of water that abound in our state. Still, the results of this research are encouraging.

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