Children and adolescents experiencing mental health crises are languishing in emergency rooms throughout Maine because of lack of access to psychiatric physicians and other mental health professionals to whom to safely discharge them. Our hospitals are filled with patients with severe mental health struggles, unable to be safely discharged, but taking up critically needed hospital beds. Every time a hospital bed is filled with a mental health patient, it is not available for ill or injured patients. Were this not bad enough, diagnoses of mental health disorders have increased profoundly throughout the years of the COVID pandemic. Diagnoses of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal ideation and completed suicide have risen significantly in a short period of time.

How did we get here, and what can we do now? There are simple and easy steps we can take to address our mental health crisis in Maine, the least of which is to pass L.D. 224, An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Healthcare Workforce by Preventing Discrimination by Requiring Maintenance of Certification for Insurance Reimbursement.

As it stands, physicians are required to recertify in their specialty by taking an examination every 10 years and completing mandatory classes; all of this is redundant from the other requirements we must adhere to. While we strongly believe that physicians must always be competent, safe and up to date to practice medicine, we already have license requirements for ongoing continuing medical education for each and every license cycle. This means physicians must spend – separate from board recertification – upward of 100 hours each and every year or two to maintain our licenses in each state where they are licensed. In addition, we must become board certified in our specialty, which we do after years of education as a junior physician. In fact, every physician already has 12 to 15 years of additional education after graduating from high school. We are steeped in science and medicine for all of our 20s and some of our 30s. To graduate from medical school and residency requires more tests than one can even imagine. It is safe to say that we are well trained and “show our awesome” every year or two when we renew our licenses.

And yet, in addition to all of this, we are asked to recertify and take a massive and expensive test every 10 years. A test that does not correlate with clinical skills whatsoever, whose pass rate is so high as to render it useless. The only benefit is to the organizations that make the tests, whose executives make obscene amounts of money by essentially building a toll bridge in our driveways every 10 years. These organizations are out of state, so Maine doesn’t even see a penny of this returned in taxes by these companies or their employees.

This maintenance of certification requirement is a blatant example of overreach and bizarre control gone amuck. Maine is the oldest state and one of the most rural, and our physicians are similarly aging. They are leaving practice, with half of the psychiatric workforce retiring these past few years and many more set to do so. And why are so many of us leaving practice? This predatory maintenance of certification mandate is top on the list of reasons, compelling many highly experienced and wise physicians to leave the workforce at a time they are needed most.

L.D. 224 would eliminate this redundant and overly burdensome regulation, one that benefits businesses and people who do not live in Maine. It burdens your physicians, who should instead be taking care of you, our patients, not spending hours each day and thousands of dollars each year for unneeded testing.

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