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Many pain clinics claim exemption

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By Carol Gentry
10/20/2010 © Health News Florida

Florida has more than 80 licensed pain clinics that are not owned by physicians, despite a widespread impression that the Legislature required such ownership in a law that took effect Oct. 1. Counting pending applications, the total will soon be more than 100.

The law allows an exemption for pain clinics not owned by physicians, so long as they are registered as health care clinics with the Agency for Health Care Administration. A flood of applications at AHCA indicates the exception has not gone unnoticed.

AHCA officials say they don’t know how many of the thousands of clinics they license in the state are non-physician-owned pain clinics. When they conducted a search of licensed clinics with the word “pain” in their title, they found 82.

More than 120 other clinics had pending applications as of Oct. 15; among those 19 had the word “pain” in their name. Many of the pending applicants are other types of clinics, such as cardiology or imaging, but some names are so ambiguous it’s hard to tell.

“We did have a lot of applications in a short time from pain-management clinics not owned by physicians,” said AHCA spokeswoman Tiffany Vause. She said the agency will treat them as it would any other clinic, inspecting twice a year.

It’s unclear whether the Department of Health will be leaving the inspections up to AHCA or duplicating. A DOH spokeswoman said she would try to find out.

Rules that implement SB 2272 -- such as determining the credentials required for pain-clinic physicians -- are still being written by a joint committee of the boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine. Those rules will apply to all pain clinics, whether owned by physicians or non-physicians, according to Deputy Attorney General Joe Jacquot.

Bruce Grant, director of Florida’s Office of Drug Control, said the confusion arises because of the wording of the law following passage of SB 2272 in the last session of the Legislature.

The pain-management clinic language (Chapter 458.3265), which went into effect Oct. 1, says in Part 6D that DOH “shall deny registration to any clinic that is not fully owned by a physician… or that is not a health-care clinic licensed under part 10 of chapter 400.”

AHCA licenses health-care clinics under part 10 of Chapter 400, Grant said.

Everyone noticed the first part of 6D, which is clear. But the second part escaped attention or proved too confusing, said Grant.

“Sometimes they leave things for others to interpret,” he said. “It’s not written in plain language.”

--Questions? Comments? Contact Carol Gentry, Editor, at 727-410-3266 or by email.