Friday, August 1, 2014

Connecting the Dots/Sleep Apnea

Congress passed a Bill directing the FMCSA not to proceed with publishing sleep apnea rules which would disqualify drivers.  Yet in May, the Agency issued its new certified doctor requirements notwithstanding the woefully inadequate number of doctors which signed up.  In publishing guidance to qualified doctors, the Agency recommends that doctors use the so-called STOP-Bang test to determine driver qualifications. STOP-Bang is an acronym for 8 criteria intended to identify drivers with sleep apnea.  Fail any three, and a driver can be required to take a $4,000 sleep apnea test.

Last week, a robust and physically fit client went to one of two doctors in his town to renew his physical and passed with flying colors.  At the conclusion, the doctor said that because of his neck size and his weight, the $4,000 sleep apnea test was mandated and that my client would be flagged in the system, so "don't think you can find another doctor to certify you without the test."

All I can say is wow!  Look how they have connected the dots. Without rulemaking and contrary to Congressional directive, using the doctor's certification program, a driver who borders on being overweight, may snore and be over 50 is under peril of losing his right to drive.  As many as 50% of the driving force may be affected. I sure hope the incident described above is an isolated occurrence, but many fear it is not.  Clearly, the so-called STOP-Bang test is profiling at its worst.  Its imposition on our industry as a guideline to doctors seems to be just another end run around due process.

Hopefully, a pre-screening test for sleep apnea, which is far less costly, can be used to avoid the extraordinary expense imposed by the doctor's test.  I am sure glad that STOP-Bang does not trigger an expensive, unfunded sleep study mandated for renewing my lawyer's license to practice.

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