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FBI raises concern about background check process under Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

We have previously written on this blog about the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which will make it easier for physicians in states that sign onto the agreement to obtain licensure in member states. The compact, according to its supporters, will help expand the practice of telemedicine and help give patients in metropolitan areas that cross state lines more choices in selecting health care providers.

Not everybody is supportive of the compact. There are some who oppose the compact on the grounds that it will not make the licensing process any easier for physicians. Other opponents say that the compact allows state medical boards to restrict the practice of telemedicine to benefit physicians in their state. Another concern with the compact in its current form, a concern raised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is that it does not appear to meet the requirements of a federal regulation granting the FBI authority to share information with the states for purposes of criminal background checks. 

The interstate compact, according to an FBI attorney, requires state medical boards to report to the Interstate Commission information concerning disciplinary or investigatory maters regarding physicians issued expedited licenses, including criminal matters. This, the attorney stated, is a problem since the FBI does not have authority to share criminal files with private organizations like the Interstate Commission.

The FBI’s objections have been refuted, first of all, on the grounds that the Interstate Commission is not a private entity, but rather a joint agency of member states. For this reason, it is said, the commission cannot be accurately characterized as a private entity. In addition, the compact does not require criminal records to be shared with the commission. Though the details are still being worked out, background checks are only used to determine eligibility for interstate licensure, and would only require the communication of a simple yes or no to the commission in terms of whether a physician meets those requirements.

It remains to be seen whether the FBI revises its position on the compact, but for now, its disapproval is, according to supporters of the compact, based on misunderstandings and mischaracterizations. We’ll keep readers updated on any news on the issue.