Interstate Licensure Compact Clears FBI Hurdle, Is Ready to Go

Ken Terry

January 27, 2017

Despite the problems that some states have had with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, some states will soon start issuing licenses to physicians, perhaps as early as next week, said Ruth Martinez, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, in an interview with Medscape Medical News.

The Interstate Compact is designed to make it easier for physicians to be licensed in multiple states. It is expected to benefit locum tenens physicians, doctors who practice in multistate metropolitan areas, and those who practice telemedicine across state lines.

To date, 18 states have joined the Interstate Compact, and another five states are considering legislation that would enable them to become members of the compact. The agreement became effective after the first seven states joined it, but no states have used the compact to issue licenses up to now.

Last summer, the FBI told Minnesota and Montana that they could not use the bureau's criminal background data on physicians if they were going to share it with the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission, which administers the agreement. Martinez, in a letter to the FBI, said that it had made an error. She noted that the commission was not a private entity, but a joint operation of the participating states.

Nevertheless, the FBI has not changed its position. In an email sent on January 26, 2017 to Medscape Medical News, FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer said, "The FBI has decided that there is no federal statutory authority for the FBI to share criminal files with an entity such as the Interstate Commission. The regulation does not permit a private organization to receive this information."

Having recognized that the FBI was not going to budge, Martinez said, the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice introduced a bill in the state legislature that would modify the Medical Practice Act to clarify that the board has the authority to ask individuals to go through background checks "and to make it clear we will not be sharing the data."

The measure is expected to clear both houses of the legislature shortly and to be signed by the governor, Martinez said. It will then go into effect immediately.

The only other states that received FBI letters, she said, were Montana and Nevada. Those states are considering passage of similar laws to meet the FBI's criteria, and a couple of other states have asked the FBI for a determination to make sure they won't have a problem, she noted.

The states that don't have a concern about the FBI can start issuing licenses in the near future, she added. It's even possible, she said, that the compact members will be able to meet their goal of a January launch date.

Under the compact process, physicians licensed in one state can be licensed in another without filling out a formal application or sending records to the second state. They must, however, meet the compact's eligibility requirements, and their principal state of licensure must attest to their qualifications.

The Interstate Compact Commission, on which Martinez is a commissioner, has been working hard to build the infrastructure for the compact over the past year, she said. It is still developing additional rules on renewals and expedited licenses.

Last June, the US Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services, announced a $250,000 annual grant for 3 years to support state medical and osteopathic boards in the implementation of the compact's administrative and technical infrastructure.

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