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Reagan Era Law Needs Obama Era Action

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 31, 2009

Public Citizen notes that, as of Dec. 31. 2007, the healthcare database listed:

  • More than 40,000 nurses sanctioned for health care-related violations, including unsafe practice or substandard care (23,551 reports), misconduct or abuse (10,930 reports), fraud/deception/ misrepresentation (3,437 reports), and improper prescribing/dispensing/administering drugs (7,526 reports).
  • More than 49,000 LPNs and nurse aides sanctioned for healthcare related violations such as unsafe practice or substandard care (16,110 reports), misconduct or abuse (12,197 reports), fraud/deception/misrepresentation (4,247 reports), and improper prescribing/dispensing/administering drugs (4,634 reports).

Apparently, Section 1921 got whisker-close to implementation in October 2008, when HHS submitted a final draft to the Office of Management & Budget. However, the paperwork got lost in the presidential transition. As a result, the regulation will have to start anew through departmental clearance, which could delay access to the data bank until 2010 or beyond.

Of course, President Obama should not be singled out for blame on this issue. We can thank in equal parts Presidents Reagan, Bush XLI, Clinton, and Bush XLIII equally for their bipartisan indifference.

However, Obama is the man now and when he ran for the job last year he promised us "Change We Need." May I respectfully suggest he take up Section 1921—with all haste—and address the change we needed 22 years ago.


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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