Many Physicians Lose "Board Eligible" Credentials with ABIM Because of Application Time Requirements

Tuesday, December 17, 2019
By Achal A. Aggarwal J.D. and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In the past few months, we have been contacted by numerous physicians who had completed residency programs in internal medicine and only recently discovered that their time has now expired to become board certified.  ABIM usually considers all internal medicine and subspecialist physicians who had met the standards for Board Certification in general internal medicine or any of its subspecialties to be “Board Eligible” in the relevant specialty for a period of only seven (7) years.

Only recently have many physicians who had previously been board eligible found out that they could no longer apply for the certification exam or become board certified.


The ABIM's Amendment to Rules Imposing Seven Year Limit.

In July 2012, The American Board of Internal Medicine ("ABIM") changed its rules regarding the designation of "Board Eligible" and the qualifications to apply for a board certification exam.

The 2012 rule requires physicians who wish to become board certified in internal medicine, or any of the ABIM's subspecialties, to register for and take the certification exam within seven (7) years of becoming Board Eligible.  After seven (7) years, if the physician has not taken and passed the board certification exam, that physician loses their "Board Eligible" status and will not be allowed to take the board certification exam.


Requirements if Seven Years has Expired.

A physician who is no longer "Board Eligible" because more than seven years has passed can only apply for the ABIM's certification exams if the physician has:

1.    completed one (1) year of retraining in the relevant specialty after the expiration of the physician's period of Board Eligibility; and

2.    the physician has met all other requirements for board certification in effect at that time.

This means that any physician who loses Board Eligibility and has not been board certified will be required to complete a one (1) year residency/fellowship in the applicable field before qualifying for the ABIM's certification exams.  The one (1) year residency/fellowship must be at an ACGME-accredited U.S. training program or an RCPSC-accredited Canadian training program.  Additionally, the physician will need to obtain an attestation from the program which states that the physician has demonstrated the requisite competency for unsupervised practice.


Rule Amendment Limits How Many Times a Physician Can Take the ABIM's Certification Exams.

In 2011, ABIM implemented a rule that prevents physicians from taking its certification exams more than three (3) times in a row.  After a third failed attempt at a certification exam, the physician will be prevented from registering for an exam for a year.  This means that if a physician fails a certification exam in 2017, 2018, and 2019, then that physician will be prevented from registering for an ABIM certification exam in 2020 and would have to wait till 2021 to re-apply.

This rule only puts a cap on three (3) failed attempts.  If the physician fails twice in a row and then takes a year off, they can still register for an ABIM certification exam the following year.  For example, if a physician fails an ABIM certification exam in 2017 and 2018 and then does not register for the 2019 exam, that physician can still register for the 2020 exam.


What Can Be Done to Obtain Authorization to Take Board Certification Exam if Time has Expired.


What can be done to obtain authorization to take the ABIM board certification exam if your seven years has expired or you have exceeded the number of attempts allowed? We have prepared petitions for physicians who have been unable to take the examinations because of personal hardships or other mitigating factors.  Although it is expected that approval of a request for additional time to take the exam or an additional attempt to take the exam may not be successful, if sufficient hardship and mitigating facts are shown we expect that the ABIM may grant these requests.  There is no guarantee and, as of yet, we have no indication this will work or what percentage may be granted or denied.

For more information, click here to read one of my prior blogs regarding ABIM matters.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.


The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in investigations and hearings of all types.  This includes board certification hearings, medical board hearings, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hearings, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearings, medical staff peer review and clinical privileges hearings, FBI Investigations, DOJ Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, Medicare and Medicaid overpayment demands and hearings, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.  We also undertake civil litigation in the same types of cases.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


About the Authors: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Achal A. Aggarwal, J.D.  Mr. Indest is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.


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12/17/2019

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