$1,000 licensing fee hard to swallow

The West Virginia State Medical Assn. was against the assessment, but most doctors are adjusting to the fee.

By Damon Adams — Posted Aug. 9, 2004

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Some physicians would rather give up their medical licenses than pay $1,000.

More than 350 doctors told West Virginia's medical boards they would not renew their licenses after July 1, the day the state began assessing a new $1,000 fee per license to help fund a physicians mutual insurance company. But state officials said the doctors' decision not to pay has not greatly altered the number of doctors practicing in the state.

The West Virginia Board of Medicine said 309 MDs of the 5,575 with licenses said they did not want to renew. "Most of the people that chose to lapse their license were probably out of state," said Ronald D. Walton, the board's executive director. The licenses of another 70 MDs were suspended by the board, Walton said. As of July 22, 14 of those were reinstated after the physicians paid the $1,000 fee and $250 late payment.

Of 61 DOs who decided not to renew, "Most of those were out-of-state physicians who were not practicing in West Virginia anyway," said Cheryl Schreiber, executive director of the West Virginia Board of Osteopathy, which covers 850 doctors. "Of those, 25 of them told us the reason they're not renewing was because of the assessment."

The board also sent notices to 45 doctors, telling them their licenses were suspended as a result of nonrenewal. Schreiber said some have since paid the $1,000 assessment and a $250 late fee.

The assessment was started July 1 to help fund a physicians mutual insurance company, which was created by the state Legislature last year due to the medical liability crisis in the state. The company covers about 1,400 physicians. Some physicians are exempt from paying the assessment, including medical school faculty and physicians in the military.

The West Virginia State Medical Assn. was against the assessment, said Evan Jenkins, association executive director. But, he said, "The physicians mutual is important for addressing the crisis of insurance availability."

Jenkins said physicians are trying to adjust to the fee. "The reactions are mixed. Nobody likes to be told they have to contribute $1,000."

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