In an effort to protect Hoosier patients and families, State Sen. Pat Miller (R-Indianapolis) is shepherding a bill through the Indiana Senate requiring national criminal background checks on health professionals like nurses and physicians.

Miller, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services, said the committee voted unanimously in support of the proposal.

Miller said of the 200 professional permits regulated by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (IPLA), only three - real estate appraisers, security guards and private investigators - require criminalhistory checks. Miller added the IPLA currently relies on all other license applicants - including health professionals - to self report arrests and convictions.

"While the majority of those working in health-related fields are honorable law-abiding citizens, news reports of health care workers being convicted of crimes without the knowledge of the state licensingboard are unacceptable," Miller said. "This legislation would help ensure health care workers who have been convicted of a crime in Indiana or any other state would be screened out in the licensing process. Lawmakers must use the resources available to keep our Hoosier patients and families protected and confident in the state's health care system."

If passed, the legislation would require health professionals, such as nurses, physicians, pharmacists and optometrists, applying for licenses to receive national criminal history checks. Miller said the Indiana State Police would then submit the applicant's information and fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

If an individual has been convicted of a crime, the report would go to the appropriate licensing officials who would determine if an individual's license or certificate should be suspended, denied or revoked.

Miller said the legislation has garnered support from the office of Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, Indiana State Nurses Association, IPLA, ISP, Indiana Dental Association, Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council and Indiana State Medical Association.

Examples of employers who are required by law to check the criminal histories of their employees include home health agencies, hospice and personal services agencies. Miller said large hospitals often require these checks, but these don't always occur in other settings - especially nursing homes.

Miller's proposal now moves to the Senate Committee on Appropriations for further consideration.