Governor Bruce Rauner and Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) Bryan Schneider were pleased to announce the implementation of paperless licensing and renewals. This paperless system will save our financially strapped state $3 million in postage, paper, and printing over the next five years. It’s also theoretically environmentally sound, which didn’t seem to be a consideration for Rauner and Schneider. Too bad it doesn’t work.
My husband and I took a seven-hour round trip to Springfield, Illinois last week. While we got to spend some time in the Lincoln Museum, which was great, the purpose of the trip was to fix a snafu with his medical license. His license had lapsed without him receiving any notice to renew it, either via snail mail or email. And clearly, he wasn’t the only physician with this problem.
In fact, an official in the medical licensing department shared that, in recent months, as many as 400 doctors did not receive their renewal notice emails. Must have been a problem with that batch of emails, she admitted. Nevertheless, it was not the state’s problem. There is no law requiring notification by paper mail, and according to our state government, electronic communication is not only more efficient, but it also will “provide a better overall experience for our licensed professionals.”
Yes, this was a much better overall experience, as the only quick remedy for the problem was to come to Springfield with a form and proof of 150 hours of continuing medical education. Otherwise, it would take six weeks for them to send out a new license, even if the information were sent electronically. I guess the efficiency and convenience only works in one direction.
About that proof of continuing education for the past three years. Turns out that although my husband had definitely completed it, finding proof was not simple. I guess no one is into faxes either these days, because a significant number of faxed answer sheets that definitely went through must have ended up in a garbage can and had to be redone. This time my husband submitted everything online because we know how well that works.
Armed with all of the required paperwork, we arrived at the IDFPR state government building that houses the medical licensing office. The doors were unlocked but there was not a soul on the entire first floor. No reception desk. No check-in procedure. Just a notice requiring visitors to sign in…somewhere. We hopped on the elevator and pushed third floor. Again, a note to sign in but no place to do it. When we found the right office, the receptionist pointed us to a clipboard on her desk. After a short wait, a woman appeared to usher my husband into a room to remedy his problem the old-fashioned way – in person and with paper.
Sitting in a chair opposite the receptionist, I encountered a woman in tears who took the seat next to mine. She was an ER physician who discovered she was in the same boat as my husband when she tried to get her narcotics license renewed. Because her medical license had lapsed, she was unable to work. She shared her tale of woe, especially how long it took her to dig out all of the documents to prove her continuing education hours. She kept reassuring me how diligent, dedicated, hard-working, and honest she is. She was devastated and humiliated by having to appear in person to fix this error. Like my husband, she reads all of her email and never received the renewal notice.
By the way, we used up a tankful of gas getting to and from Springfield. That likely negated any environmental benefits of not printing and mailing notices. Of course, we had to print out several pages of forms and copies of the license, so there’s that as well.
Abraham Lincoln said, "The legitimate object of government is to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they cannot, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves." Too bad our state government, which pays so much homage to Lincoln, doesn’t feel much of a need to do what needs to be done for the citizens of Illinois.