Many physicians and healthcare professionals are very concerned, when faced with professional misconduct complaints and allegations. This is due to the potentially damaging nature of many claims, as well as the risk of having such an investigation remain on their record throughout their professional career.
Providers often rush to resolve a misconduct allegation in a way that seemingly makes the charges against them go away by executing a settlement agreement (often known as a “Consent Agreement”). These providers, looking to get rid of a terrifying and often embarrassing proceeding by entering into such an agreement as quickly as possible, often do so without realizing that it can have lasting ramifications should they wish to apply for privileges or employment in the future. Currently, Medicaid has even taken the position in New York that the mere execution of a settlement agreement for any form of professional misconduct allegation, operates as an automatic basis for exclusion, despite case law and rulings to the contrary.
Physicians and healthcare providers are often unfamiliar with the investigative process and procedures of the professional misconduct proceeding. They run the risk of signing a document that might give them a very minimal penalty, if any, upfront, but that has greater ramifications and repercussions in the long-term. Admitting to wrongdoing in such a way, can give other agencies a window through which to bring additional actions. It can also put a physician or healthcare provider in a more negative light, when reported to other agencies, employers, hospitals, insurance plans and similar health care entities.
Any settlement agreement, even one that seems to offer a minimal penalty or “stayed suspension,” needs to be structured in such a way that it minimizes the effect on the physician or healthcare provider’s future ability to practice. Before entering into or signing such an agreement, be sure to contact and discuss this action with your attorney.