Last week Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill (AB 1548) that increases penalties for illegally owning and operating a medical spa — a bill that the California Medical Association (CMA) supported.
Current law already requires that medical businesses operating in California be owned by a physician or owned at least 51 percent by a physician and the remainder by a licensed practitioner, such as a nurse. Additionally, patients must be examined by a physician or an advanced practitioner, like a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, before treatments are administered. However, the fines for getting caught illegally operating a medi-spa were not harsh enough to dissuade repeat offences.
Before Brown signed the bill into law, offenders could be fined $200 to $1,200, and receive a 60- to 180-day jail sentence or both. Under the new law, penalties have been raised to maximum fine of $50,000 and a maximum two- to five-year sentence in a state prison if the services exceeded $950 in cost to the patient. If costs are less than $950, the offender could receive a six-month jail sentence, a maximum fine of $1,000 or both.
In 2010, the Assembly and Senate passed AB 2566, which was similar to the bill signed by Brown, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. In his veto letter, Schwarzenegger said that rather than investigating medical spas, “the medical board’s time was better spent investigating physicians accused of causing serious patient harm or death.”
In a letter sent in 2010, CMA asked Schwarzenegger to sign AB 2566 because “business models aimed at financial gain rather than safe and appropriate medical treatment cannot be tolerated.”
The state Assembly approved AB 1548 in April and the Senate unanimously approved the bill last week.