Class Action Lawsuit Hits Michigan Professional Health Program

Class Action Lawsuit Hits Michigan Professional Health Program

State Physician Health Programs Scurry to Avoid Legal Action, Doctors Outraged

A  lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in March against the organization that monitors impaired professionals for the Michigan State Board of Medicine, alleging constitutional violations, financial conflicts, lack of oversight, and due process.  Three mid-level providers are claiming damages as a result of actions taken by the Health Professional Recovery Program (HPRP), originally established to provide health professionals with a confidential and non-disciplinary approach  to dealing with substance abuse disorders and mental health issues.

The HPRP, administered by a private contractor, was initially designed to monitor treatment of health professionals referred to them by providers.  But plaintiffs claim the program’s administrators are overruling treatment decisions by board-certified and licensed physicians in favor of coercion of individuals into a small group of selected treatment facilities that are also charged with providing an initial evaluation of the need for treatment. Treatment facilities are expensive, and in most cases, insurance companies don’t consider these admissions to be medically necessary.

In one case cited in the court filing, the plaintiff was told she would have to stop taking pain medication prescribed by her treating physician for a period of two years. This decision was made after a short evaluation during which the evaluator did not contact the treating provider, and when the plaintiff refused to agree, her nursing license was summarily suspended. Her suspension was later dissolved in court. This is one small example, but it’s telling, Last time I checked, doctors had the right to choose a healthcare provider. It is surprising that the Michigan Medical Board would support a policy that essentially declares many of their own licensees inadequate to provide a treatment plan.

Unfortunately, this is not the only professional health program faced with backlash for financial double dealing and coercion. North Carolina physicians’ complaints promoted the North Carolina State Auditor to investigate oversight by the medical board in that state, and she found evidence of lack of oversight and the appearance of conflict of interest. Money flowed directly from the “impaired physician program” to their “approved providers” in the form of scholarships for the doctors they referred.

A common pattern has emerged in the treatment of doctors for mental illness or substance abuse. Agencies that were originally installed as volunteer boards aimed at helping doctors return to practice safely have been populated with a new group of professionals – doctors who are closely tied to treatment facilities or drug testing companies who frequently have their own history of substance abuse issues.

A recent string of posts on SERMO, the world’s largest physician-only social network, received a lot of attention. It is clear there have been a lot of abuses, sharing of confidential information, and lack of due process for participants. Many object to the religious overtones of every program that is “approved” for doctors by the Federation of State Physician Health Committees, the parent organization that has formed to keep all state committees notified of talking points. Physicians are currently subjected to polygraph tests, a practice most Americans would never accept. The term “disruptive physician” is an easy way to target those who speak out against a system that has become adversarial.

There are 400 suicide deaths annually among US physicians. Many of these doctors suicide when under investigation or contract with the committees originally designed to help them return to health. Other doctors are afraid to speak out, for fear of reprisal, particularly when in a contract with their PHP.

Have you heard of a colleague who has self-reported or has been reported for mental health or substance issues? Perhaps you have experienced a period of mental health crisis in your own life. How did you handle reporting requirements? What rights should doctors enjoy?

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17 thoughts on “Class Action Lawsuit Hits Michigan Professional Health Program

    • This article concisely sums up this tragic problem. Yes, these programs have been subsumed by groups which are not appropriate, which serve their own financial interests. This must stop.

      Shame on everyone involved. I am ready to march sign in hand. You can count on me. Let’s do this.
      Gail

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    • I would welcome anyone to speak with about this lawsuit. Should this case is still active. These instances were exactly what happened to me ! I would love to be part of this action. I lost my whole nursing career of 34 years by dealing with HPRP and their ridiculous so called “rules”. Please contact me at cyrisser@ymail.com

      Liked by 1 person

    • No one here is against physician treatment with oversight as an acceptable alternative to punitive decrees from medical boards. Still, these programs have not only not been successful, no studies of any merit to show such, but the suicide rate has not dropped, may have increased.

      All these programs do is line their own pockets with the money of physicians or other providers who are coerced into inappropriate, and in some cases, lethal “treatments”, depriving them of any rights other than the right to give up medicine altogether…something some physicians would die before doing.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Our reporting requirement is basically report or be destroyed. It is always better to self report. After all I am ethically responsible to report when I am unable to nurse as per my College’s Standards of Practice. Honestly I felt like a criminal. I was Depressed, anxious and bullied…yet I was treated as scum. I was even told to leave the profession. I didn’t leave but spent years having a restriction on my license stating I was Incapacitated and a danger to others.

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    • I do not believe we have to report ourselves. We simply have to take responsibility and not work. If we choose to take time off for personal reasons, including getting past our addictions, it isn’t anyone else’s business. It is only if someone is actively impaired at work and refuses to do anything about it that it should be reported. We have to stop letting the boards push us around, violate our confidentiality, stigmatize us for life and harass us endlessly without any real justification.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am currently going through this in South Carolina. SCRPP has their evaluating MD on their Board as Medical Director. So, I received a diagnosis of opioid abuse even though I didn’t meet the criteria under the DSM IV.
    They most recently requested an observed urine because my urine screens have been negative. Then accused me of swapping urine.
    I begged for a hair sample and/or DNA test to which ever urine sample they were questioning. The would only allow a polygraph.
    I refused as I know these tests are not reliable and I wanted pure scientific evidence with the other tests.
    Now I’m in non-compliance and they are reporting me to the nursing board.
    If anyone does have an attorney that has been helpful in this type of situation I’d appreciate any help.
    My current attorney told me ” I’m poking the hornets nest” when I question their tactics.

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    • There are 3 or 4 attorneys in each State who are the primary referral sources for the PHP. Although ostensibly working for you they will only work within certain boundaries. They will tell you the PHP is the ” only game in town” and you must do everything and anything they say or risk suspension. They act as the enforcers for collecting money for lab testing owed the PHP and threaten that the PHP will report you to the board if you don’t pay the money. They will never ever address issues of lab fraud, diagnosis rigging or any misconduct. They will not discuss or address AA or Establishment Clause violations and they are careful to write all documents in am net that protects the PHP.

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    • Find out who is the medical director as well as the chairman of the board of your PHP type program. Ask for a copy of their protocol re: assessment. Ask for their protocol for filing a grievance. If they don’t provide or don’t have one, a) file a grievance with these parties; b) file a grievance with whoever oversees them, including the nursing board; c) write to the state auditor and file a complaint about violation of medical protocol and fraudulent assessment. Read the NC Auditor’s report on NCPHP. (linked elsewhere on this blog). Yes, you are poking a hornet’s nest. And yes, the hornet’s nest has to be removed.

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  3. Please, Please tell me I still have recourse! I am a physician assistant and my license was suspended because I wouldn’t lie and say I had an addiction problem. They crucified me, I lost my license, the NCCPA suspended my certification, lost my job, my career. my professional identity, everything because I wrote a prescription for Adderall for my son. I can’t get my license back because I would have to go to one of THEIR treatment centers, have testing weekly and pay cash for it all for 3 YEARS. before they would consider me eligible. It’s been six years now. Does anyone have ANY advise? I am still devastated. Is there any hope????

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  4. Michael, How can I help? In my communication with the PA PHP, they flat out REFUSED to send me anything in writing spelling out their “requirements” and costs associated with them. I am so frustrated because no one seems to understand that essentially I have to BUY my license back. Please, please tell me how I can get involved!

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