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STATE | Louisiana Society Sustains State Laws on Physician Advertising

When a patient sees the term "board certified" they assume the provider advertising their services is board certified in the specialty they practice. Unfortunately, though, advertisements that fail to mention the specialty certified, advertisements touting credentials from sub-par boards, and even outright false advertisements are common. These advertisements can lead patients to an untrained or inadequately trained provider, exposing the patient to increased risk of adverse events. Because patient safety is a top priority for the Society, ASPS works nationwide to support policy that restricts the use of the term to the highest-quality boards.

Physician advertising has been a focus for the Louisiana Society of Plastic Surgeons (LSPS) for years, including passage of a law requiring truth in advertising that it was instrumental in developing. Since December of 2014, LSPS physician leaders have dedicated significant time and resources combatting relentless attempts by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) to gain equivalency for advertising purposes to member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or American Osteopathic Association (AOA). LSPS has met this challenge at every level of state government, including proposals before the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (LSBME) and the state legislature.

In response to the continuous efforts of ABCS diplomates, LSPS engaged local lobbyists and built a local coalition of 15 medical specialties, all in opposition to easing restrictions on the state's existing advertising law. In late April, a bill that would permit any physician certified by an existing board to advertise as "board certified" was heard in committee. This bill, if enacted, would have eviscerated the current law, which requires physicians who advertise as board certified to be a member an ABMS or AOA board. Non-ABMS or AOA boards may also be deemed equivalent by the LSBME if the certifying body requires training, in the specialty it certifies, in an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or AOA approved postgraduate training program. Due to vigorous grassroots efforts undertaken by LSPS, with the support of ASPS, the legislation failed to advance out of committee, preserving the state's current advertising standards.

LSPS also remained highly engaged before the LSBME, where LSPS leadership testified numerous times, recruited expert witnesses to testify and provided thoughtful amendments to the existing board rules on granting equivalency for advertising. The LSBME ultimately adopted a rule that further enforces the existing law, requiring completion of ACGME training in the specialty named in the certificate.

Although LSPS has been instrumental in securing significant legislative and regulatory victories to date, the Society's work is not finished. The legislation, while defeated in committee, could come back as a rider to another measure. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, whose equivalency may be denied by the LSBME, is likely to continue to pursue legislative alternatives in the future. In order to aid LSPS in their important ongoing work on this issue, ASPS awarded LSPS with an ASPS State Advocacy Grant for $10,000. To learn more about the ASPS State Advocacy Grant, click here.

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