Osteopathic Medical Licensing Compliance With the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990

Katherine A. Lincoln, DO, and Beth E. Wagner, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: October 7, 2019

Accepted: October 29, 2019

Published: August 26, 2020

J Osteopath Med; 120(10): 641-646

Context: Physicians have an increased rate of depression and suicide compared with nonphysician peers. State medical licensure questions about mental health deter physicians from seeking mental health care. Several previous studies have examined state medical licensing board compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, but none have included osteopathic licensing boards.

Objectives: To evaluate compliance of state osteopathic medical licensing boards with ADA requirements regarding mental health.

Methods: State medical licensing applications for 51 states, including the District of Columbia (DC), and 16 states with osteopathic licensing entities were reviewed for ADA compliance in questions about mental health. In states where both osteopathic and allopathic applications were available, questions and compliance were compared.

Results: Fourteen of 51 states (including DC) were grossly out of compliance with ADA statutes. In states where osteopathic and allopathic licensing were both available, 7 of 16 asked different mental health questions of osteopathic physicians than their allopathic physician counterparts. Of those 7 states, 6 of the osteopathic boards were out of compliance with ADA, while their allopathic counterparts were either compliant or intermediately compliant.

Conclusions: To improve physician wellbeing, corrective action must be taken to create ADA-compliant language in medical licensing so physicians can seek treatment for mental health conditions without discrimination by licensing boards. Osteopathic physicians should be aware that there is a discrepancy in state licensure compliance compared with allopathic requirements in some states.

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