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Website with doctor profiles escapes state's budget ax

A website that offers consumers information on all licensed New York doctors was not only spared the state budget ax but also has been strengthened.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposed budget called for cutting the state Department of Health's physician profile website for an annual savings of $1.2 million.

The website,, established in 2000, includes criminal and malpractice background as well as information on a doctor's practice, board certifications and education. Cuomo maintained that much of the data was available elsewhere.

But patient advocates strongly disagreed, as did two key state legislators, Assembly Health Committee chairman Richard Gottfried and Senate Health Committee chairman Kemp Hannon.

Instead, the website funding was kept at the same level and some alterations were made.

Now doctors must notify the health department of any changes to their profile information within 30 days instead of 120 days, and the Health Department must update the information within 30 days. In addition, the Health Department must study the feasibility of adding information to the website about what health insurance plans a doctor takes.

"As we move towards more transparency and public access to health care information, this budget language will speed up both reporting by physicians and website updates by the Department of Health," Gottfried (D-Manhattan) said in a statement. The study on including information on what health plans are accepted "would be critically important for families."

Hannon (R-Garden City) said he was pleased the website was spared.

"I think it's an enormous tool," Hannon said. As for including the health insurance information on the website, he said, "I think it's very doable."

Ilene Corina, president of PULSE of New York, a patient advocacy group in Wantagh, said she was surprised by the number of calls and emails she got from people supporting the appeal to keep the website. She was among about a dozen advocates who sent a letter to legislators in February opposing the cuts. "I am very happy," she said of the outcome.

Suzanne Mattei, executive director of New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment Inc. in Manhattan, said she was "thrilled."

"Sometimes the public voice gets heard," she said. "This would have been just terrible."