Governor Beshear Weighing Appointments To Medical Board

Sep 8, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  -- Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has five appointments to make that could reshape a state medical board that has played a controversial role in efforts to crack down on prescription drug abuse.

The Courier-Journal reports that three members of the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board had terms that expired Aug. 31. Two other members' terms are awaiting action after ending last year.

All five of the members whose terms are up are continuing to serve until Beshear makes a decision. That's a normal occurrence on state boards and commissions.

Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson says the appointments are under review. She did not indicate how the governor might proceed other than noting that he will consider qualifications and recommendations.

The licensure board drew criticism last year for not taking more aggressive action against so-called pill mills and corrupt doctors who supply Kentucky's drug epidemic.

The medical industry has criticized the board in recent months for writing what doctors view as overly complex and excessive prescription regulations under House Bill 1, passed by lawmakers in an effort to take aim at abuse of drugs.

Under statute, the board is composed of 11 members appointed by the governor and four ex-officio members from colleges and the state Department for Public Health.

In the past, Beshear was required to base seven of his appointments on recommendations from the Kentucky Medical Association. But HB1 changed the rules, allowing the governor to depart from the association's nominees.

Some of the bill's supporters said changing the rules for appointments would empower Beshear to reduce the medical association's influence on the board and include representatives from a broader range of medical specialties.

"I think it is obvious that the tenor of the statute contemplates some changes in the makeup of the KBML board," House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said in a statement Friday.

Stumbo was among the toughest critics of the board last year and has said the licensure board's new regulations exceed the intent of HB1. But his statement Friday stopped short of urging particular shifts in board membership.

Of the five expired terms, three represent previous medical association nominees, and all of the members are eligible for reappointment.

The governor could reappoint them or accept other recommendations from the association. Medical association President Shawn Jones said Thursday that the association has submitted a list of nominees and has not received any feedback from Beshear.

He declined to speculate why, but said the KMA has been singled out for its opposition to the bill while other associations retain influence over appointments to various boards.

He said the new rules could open the door to political cronyism and unqualified board members.

"Having people that are not qualified professionally to regulate a profession is going to potentially lead to all sorts of problems," he said.

Terms for the governor's six other appointments will expire in August 2013 and 2014.