Bill To Expand License Fee Waiver For Retired Doctors Gaining Steam [Greenwich Time]

April 2, 2012

Article as it appeared in the Greenwich Time on March 31, 2012

By Lisa Chamoff

Just as retired internist Peter Arturi is stepping down after serving for 12 years on the Greenwich Board of Health, legislation that he has supported is finally gaining momentum.

The legislation, proposed by state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36th District, would waive the annual license renewal fee for retired physicians who provide volunteer medical services for a local health department, as well as the Veterans Health Administration, a U.S. Coast Guard medical clinic or the nonprofit organization Doctors Without Borders.

Currently, retired doctors who do pro bono work for public health facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes and mobile health clinics are exempt from paying the annual $565 license renewal fee.

“I didn’t qualify because they felt the department of health in Greenwich, like all the departments of the communities, didn’t qualify as a public health facility,” Arturi said.

Arturi said he renews his license each year and it doesn’t cause financial hardship.

“It’s not a money issue,” Arturi said. “It’s recognition of what retired physicians do on a volunteer basis when they’re no longer practicing.”

Frantz said he has submitted the bill at least three times before, but it has never made it out of the Public Health Committee.

“I think all the committees were overwhelmed before,” Frantz said. “They might have actually dug a little deeper into their pile.”

After a March 7 hearing and 24-1 vote, the bill was referred to the Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding, which Frantz says must consider legislation that will affect state revenue. Frantz said he doesn’t think the change would have a big impact on the amount of revenue the state collects.

“I can’t see it running into too much opposition,” Frantz said.

The bill is supported by the Connecticut State Medical Society, which submitted testimony for the recent hearing, noting that retired doctors can help address the state’s physician shortage.

“Connecticut has the dubious distinction of having one of the oldest physician populations in the country,” the testimony reads. “While much of this may be related to our access to care issues and ability to attract and retain younger physicians, we cannot ignore reality and we cannot ignore a physician population that wants to continue to contribute by providing medical care services to those that desperately are in need of this care.”

Arturi, 85, also volunteers with a health insurance counseling group for seniors that is linked to the town’s Commission on Aging and Greenwich-based Family Centers. He also volunteers to review charts at The Mews assisted-living facility. Those activities would not fall under the new law.

Dr. Marilyn Ross Cahn, a retired pediatrician who has served on the Greenwich Board of Health for the past seven years, agrees that the law should be expanded to include volunteers like herself.

“I think it might encourage doctors to continue to volunteer,” Ross Cahn said.

Dr. Naomi Tamerin, who practiced laboratory medicine and has served on the Greenwich Board of Health for many years, volunteering at the town’s flu clinics, also agrees the law should be expanded.

“It would be wonderful if they gave us a break,” Tamerin said. “Other states do it.”