As a healthcare and business law firm, we have many clients who participate in or wish to participate in pain management clinics. Pain management clinics are a controversial topic. Although useful when managed correctly, these clinics are widely thought to be part of the cause for the opioid epidemic. Georgia citizens suffered and continue to suffer from the opioid epidemic, but, in 2013, Georgia took a large step toward reducing the drug problem by enacting House Bill 178 (“HB 178”) known as the Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act. Before any of our clients become involved with a pain management clinic in Georgia, we immediately advise them of the following three facts.
- The Role of the Georgia Composite Medical Board
HB 178 created a section in the Georgia Code placing pain management clinics under the purview of the Georgia Composite Medical Board (“GCMB”). As such, pain management clinics require registering and applying with the GCMB. The application requires providing information about each owner, principal, manager, agent, and licensed health care worker. The GCMB will review each person or entity and ensure each passes a background check and otherwise complies with the governing laws and rules. Once approved by the GCMB, the registrant will receive a pain management clinic license number. The GCMB strongly recommends not practicing in or operating a pain management clinic until receiving the pain management clinic license number.
- Defining a “Pain Management Clinic”
An important initial step is to determine whether the clinic is a “pain management clinic.” Georgia Code section 43-34-282 defines a “pain management clinic” as:
[A] medical practice advertising “treatment of pain” or utilizing “pain” in the name of the clinic or a medical practice or clinic with greater than 50 percent of its annual patient population being treated for chronic pain for nonterminal conditions by the use of Schedule II or III controlled substances.
Note, the definition excludes any clinic that is wholly or partially owned by a licensed hospital, health system, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, hospice, or home health agency. O.C.G.A. § 43-34-282(7).
- The Rules on Clinic Ownership
One of the pivotal requirements of HB 178 is requiring that pain management clinics be owned by Georgia-licensed physicians. Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 43-34-283(b)(1) provides, “All pain management clinics shall be owned by physicians licensed in this state.” In addition to the Georgia Code, the Georgia Composite Medical Board promulgated rule 360-8-.03, which provides Pain Management Clinic License Requirements. One requirement is that “all pain management clinics . . . must be owned by physicians holding current licenses to practice in this state.” The rule requires 100% ownership by physicians; no joint ownership with non-physicians is allowed. Cf. Rule 360-8-.03(1)(a) (allowing physician owner to jointly own pain management clinic with physician assistant or APRN if the clinic was in existence on June 30, 2013).
The Board has investigatory powers to determine who the real owners in effect are. In addition to submitting official documents of ownership with the registrants application (such as incorporation papers or an issued business license), “the Board, at its discretion may request a lease agreement, bank accounts, information related to billing practices of the business, evidence related to form of payment for the owners of the clinic and physicians practicing at the clinic and any other documentation that the Board may need to determine actual ownership.” GCMB Licensure of Pain Management Clinics General Information and Checklist.
Our attorneys are experienced in advising healthcare businesses on Georgia Composite Medical Board matters. If you have business licensing or other GCMB questions or would like to discuss this blog post, you may contact our healthcare and business law firm at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
*Disclaimer: Thoughts shared here do not constitute legal advice.