BasicMed: I'm Leaning Toward Self Help
For the past week, we’ve been running a survey on what readers think about the just-announced BasicMed program from the FAA. I’m gonna guess here, but maybe I shouldn’t have dived into the data so soon because doing so caused me to have several revelations. One is what a largish crapshoot this whole thing is, the second is that many pilots are, how to put it, not impressed and the last is how much this entire thing will turn on how doctors many of us don’t even know will react. I’m just hoping whether intended or not, the FAA hasn’t stuck a poison bill in this thing.
First the survey. I’ll get into a more detailed analysis of it next week, but for now, I was most interested in learning how confident readers are that their doctors will sign the FAA’s checklist—the one that we haven’t even seen yet. As of Sunday, 1946 people had responded to the survey which is, as these things go, a lot of interest.
This was the survey question on finding a doctor: “In your opinion, how difficult will it be to find a non-AME doctor to complete and sign the required BasicMed checklist?” Twenty eight percent said they thought it would be easy, 36 percent said it will be a little difficult, 14 percent said it would be impossible and another 14 percent had no opinion. You can interpret this as you will.
The sunny day view would be that 63 percent of the respondents think it will be easy or just a little difficult to find a doc. The cynic’s view would be that half think it will be difficult to impossible to get a doc to sign. Reading the comments kind of tilted me toward the cynic’s view. Rather than being happy about this, many pilots are really quite angry about it, not seeing much benefit and predicting difficulty in getting other than AME doctors to go along. Personally, I’m neutral on this because no one has seen the checklist. That led to revelation one: If that checklist is too detailed or demanding or gives the doctor the impression he’s taking on more responsibility than he (or she) otherwise might, there will be pushback, in my view. How much of that we see could make or break the whole idea.
Pilots live in a world of liability and lawsuits and, judging by the comments, they believe doctors do, too. “Why would a doctor or medical group expose themselves to this kind of litigation? If one does, I expect it will not be for long,” wrote one commenter. But to be fair, many respondents don’t see a problem at all. “I think my personal physician will be glad to do it,” wrote commenter Joe G. Many respondents said they want to see the actual checklist before opining on this topic.
I asked AOPA and EAA about this, and both said they’re providing information and guidance for docs and members to deal with the BasicMed checklist. EAA has a board of AMEs working up a new medical policy. Several people in the survey said docs should be given a hold-harmless or waiver agreement to encourage them to approve the checklist. “A hold harmless document may or may not have any great standing, if you talk with attorneys about those. So those people who leap to that as a solution may be premature,” says EAA's Dick Knapinksi.
Perhaps. But that led to revelation two. Why would I depend on the alphabets to see this through? Guidance is appreciated, but ultimately, I’m more inclined toward self help. While a waiver may or may not hold up in court, that’s less the point than giving a reluctant doctor a way to sign the checklist. It’s possible that it won’t be the problem we think it could be and a waiver won’t be necessary. On the other hand, it could just as easily go the other way. For what it’s worth, we sign these waivers all the time in skydiving and they almost universally withstand challenges.
Regardless of how the checklist is viewed by the non-AME medical community, one thing is certain from the survey thus far: Readers view it is one massive and irritating charade. “The BasicMed is such a compromise I do not think it will help me as much as it could have had AOPA and EAA done more to stay closer to the original plan. My doctor filling out a form is very governmental and unnecessary. I believe I will still mostly do what I have been doing under my AME-assisted special issuance; just will not have to send it in to the FAA,” wrote one commenter.
On the face of it, not having to deal with the FAA is a plus and an improvement. It’s just not the one we were all hoping for.
Tuesday addition: Several readers chided me for saying the checklist isn't available. It is available in AC 68-1. However, this is clearly labeled a draft and may or may not resemble the final version. Here's a clickable link.