- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — The state nursing board is refunding hundred of thousands of dollars to nurses and nursing assistants after a legislative inquiry found it collected fees without authority.

The Maryland Board of Nursing on April 1 raised the fees nurses and nursing assistants pay to practice. But the fees were raised before the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene approved the increase.

The board collected increased fees from about 28,000 nurses and nursing assistants, who paid up to $25 more than they should have, to grant and renew licenses.

The board is still determining who paid too much, but its executive director yesterday said all the excess payments will be returned.

“Absolutely, we’ll do that — no question,” said Patricia Ann Noble. “We’re making sure that we have an accurate listing to make sure that we’re able to get them reimbursed.”

Mrs. Noble, who started work as executive director of the board last month, said her staff has not compiled an estimate of how much money would be returned. She said the refunds should be completed in six months.

State lawmakers asked the board to refund the fees in a letter last month to Mrs. Noble and to John M. Colmers, secretary of Maryland’s Health and Mental Hygiene Department.

“Because the regulations proposing the fee increases are not yet in effect, the board does not have the authority to collect these increased fees,” wrote State Sen. Paul G. Pinsky and Delegate Anne Healey, both Prince George’s Democrats and co-chairmen of the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review.

“The committee appreciates that the board has now stopped charging the higher fees. However, the committee believes that those licensees who have already paid the increased fees should have that money the board charged them without authority refunded or credited to them in some manner,” they said.

The fees will increase once the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene approves them.

New nurses will have to pay $100, up from the current $75 fee. Volunteer nurses, who pay $5 to register, will have to pay $20.

Representatives for state nurses said they are glad to hear that the board will be refunding the extra money.

“I always think it is a good thing when people take a breath and have to think about something again,” said Rosemary Mortimer, president-elect of the Maryland Nurses Association.

The board licenses and regulates about 60,000 nurses and nursing assistants in the state and is independently funded by the fees.

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