'Laboratories of democracy' not generating original research

April 1, 2011

Cries of "copycat" may be heard from a chorus of voices as legislators "borrow" policy initiatives from their fellow mad scientists in the "laboratories of democracy."

Immigration reform in Arizona begot immigration reform in Utah, Oklahoma, Colorado, and seven other states. Plastic bag taxes in Washington begot plastic bag tax proposals in California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

Cries of "copycat" may be heard from a chorus of voices as legislators "borrow" policy initiatives from their fellow mad scientists in the "laboratories of democracy." Today, very few experiments are new and innovative. Instead, lawmakers adopt model legislation advanced by special interests, including organized medicine.

The College of American Pathologists (CAP) has embarked on a multi-year campaign to impose a direct billing monopoly for clinical pathology services in the 50 states. The American College of Surgeons annually encourages its chapters to secure introduction of the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act. And the independent medical licensure law described in a previous column (http://urologytimes.com/Virginia) originated in the form of boilerplate legislation authored by the American Medical Association.

The AACU State Society Network is monitoring a number of copycat bills that impact the practice of urology. Physician apology bills, a baby step toward medical liability reform, gained legs in a number of states early in 2011. The CAP-authored direct billing measure may soon find its way onto the books in Washington state and Indiana. And a historically bad Maryland law concerning in-office ancillary services found a sponsor in Oregon.

"White Hat" copycat bills receive consideration, as well. Myriad states approve model cancer awareness resolutions. At least six states introduced the American College of Surgeons bill to allow health care practitioners to cross state lines during a declared emergency.

In short, what happens in Carson City does not stay in Carson City, and physicians, supported by organizations such as the AACU, must keep a watchful eye on potentially unstable experiments in those laboratories of democracy.

To learn more about legislative issues in your state, please visit AACU's Action Center today at www.aacuweb.org

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