UPDATE: State lawmakers unanimously passed a bill that would require Arizona health regulatory boards to post every one of their actions on public websites, providing access to thousands of previously hidden actions.
SB1443 was passed over the weekend and transferred to Governor Doug Ducey Monday.
The Governor now has 9 more days to sign the bill into law.
ORIGINAL REPORT (3/24/16): A bill prompted by an ABC15 investigation to improve transparency and require Arizona health boards to post all actions on their websites is moving through the state legislature.
But there was also a brief attempt last week to gut the bill, allowing boards to continue to hide a significant portion of their decisions from the public.
SB1443 would require the state’s nearly two dozen health boards to post all of their actions against professionals – both disciplinary and non-disciplinary. It also sought to impose stronger term limits on the state’s health board members.
The bill was introduced by state Senator Nancy Barto and was prompted by an ABC15 investigation last year into Arizona’s Board of Dental Examiners.
“Transparency is the best cleanser, and the public deserves to have all actions on the website,” said Sen. Barto in a recent hearing.
SB1443 already passed unanimously through the state Senate.
It is now going through the House of Representatives. And last week, the Health Committee briefly considered an amendment that would have reversed the bill’s intent.
The amendment, introduced by Health Committee Chair Rep. Heather Carter, would have kept non-disciplinary actions from being posted on board websites.
Sen. Barto spoke before the Health Committee and challenged the amendment by citing serious cases highlighted by ABC15 and the Auditor General’s Office.
“To say the least, I would oppose the amendment that would take us back to the status quo,” Sen. Barto said.
Rep. Carter decided to withdraw the amendment.
ABC15 also asked Governor Doug Ducey about the amendment to gut SB1443 during a recent interview. Ducey said he doesn’t usually comment on pending legislation.
However, the Governor said as a matter of practice he almost always favors moves that improve public transparency.
ABC15’s investigation into the dental board uncovered that 70 percent of the board’s actions were essentially hidden from the public because they were classified as non-discipline. By law, non-disciplinary actions – even though they are public records -- are prohibited from being posted on the boards’ websites.
Among the non-disciplinary files, ABC15 discovered:
• Dentists accused or indicted of fraud
• Dentists who extracted the wrong teeth
• Dentists with issues involving prescriptions, drugs and alcohol
• Dentists with multiple malpractice reports
ABC15 also obtained an letter written by dental board Executive Director Elaine Hugunin to dental professionals that said it’s “good news” that non-disciplinary actions are hidden from the public and are eventually destroyed.
Sent. Barto successfully worked to pass a bill last year that required the dental board to post all of its actions. She made good on a promise to ABC15 to expand the legislation in 2016.
SB1443 can be found on the Arizona state legislature’s website.
ABC15 is currently reviewing non-disciplinary actions for every state health board. If you have a story involving a health board or a health professional who received non-discipline, please contact ABC15 at email@example.com.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at firstname.lastname@example.org.