Last Updated: Jul 22, 2020
Physicians must renew their medical licenses every even-numbered year. Doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) must renew their licenses by October 31 and doctors of allopathic medicine (MDs) must renew their licenses by December 31.
All physicians must renew their licenses on Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS). Access PALS at www.pals.pa.gov.
This FAQ provides answers to the most common questions the Pennsylvania Medical Society receives on the renewal process.
1. Where is my renewal notice?
Renewal notices are sent electronically (email) to licensees. Notices contain instructions on how to access PALS and a registration code. Check all email folders in your inbox for your renewal notice.
If you cannot find your notice, you can recover your registration code, update your email address, and reset your password here. You can also contact the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) at 717-787-8503 for assistance.
Additional information to assist you with PALS registration and log-in issues is available here.
2. When do I need to upload supporting documentation?
To renew on PALS, licensees must answer a series of yes/no questions. Some questions have the option to upload supporting documents.
Supporting documentation is required to be uploaded to some questions depending upon your answers. PALS will notify you when you are required to upload a supporting document. Note if you answer yes to any legal question on PALS, supporting documents related to the matter must be uploaded.
PAMED has received numerous questions regarding whether supporting documentation is needed for two specific PALS renewal questions. On PALS, you will be asked whether you have registered for the PDMP and whether you maintain medical professional liability insurance.
- If you answer that you have registered for the PDMP, you do not need to upload any supporting documents verifying registration.
- If you answer that you maintain professional liability insurance, or insurance is provided to you by your employer, you do not need to upload any documents verifying insurance coverage.
3. Do I need to register for the PDMP?
PALS will ask you whether you have registered for the PDMP. Do not answer that you have registered for the PDMP if you have not, making a false statement to your State Board can subject you to professional discipline by that Board.
If you have an active license to practice medicine in Pennsylvania, this gives you the authority under state law to prescribe controlled substances, even if you do not actually prescribe controlled substances. Therefore, you are required to register with the PDMP program. This requirement applies to all active and active-retired licensees, even those who do not have a DEA registration number. Registering with the PDMP program is a separate requirement from querying the PDMP system.
You can register for the PDMP program here.
Physicians without a personal DEA number can register for their own PDMP account under the “Prescriber without DEA” role in the PDMP system.
Access PAMED’s Quick Consults on the PDMP for detailed information on PDMP requirements and Pennsylvania’s opioid laws.
4. Who is required to fulfill the opioid CME requirements?
Physicians seeking re-licensure are required to complete at least two hours of continuing medical education (CME) in pain management, identification of addiction, or the practices of prescribing or dispensing of opioids.
For physicians seeking re-licensure, the two-hour CME requirement does not apply to a prescriber who:
1) is exempt from the DEA’s requirements for registration under its applicable laws and regulations, as well as any state law; and
2) does not use the registration of another person or entity as permitted by law to prescribe controlled substances in any manner.
The exemption applies unless a physician has a DEA registration number or prescribes under another individual’s or entity’s DEA registration number.
Note, if you have a restricted DEA number, you are still required to fulfill the opioid CME requirements. If you currently have a DEA number, but are planning not to renew your DEA registration, you must still fulfill the opioid CME requirements.
Additional information on complying with Pennsylvania’s opioid CME requirements can be found here, and PAMED’s opioids CME courses are available here.
5. I do not maintain professional liability insurance; can I renew my active-unrestricted license?
The Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (Mcare) requires health care practitioners providing health care services within Pennsylvania to maintain medical professional liability insurance.
If you want to maintain your active license, but do not practice medicine, you might qualify for exemption from Mcare’s insurance requirements. To verify that you qualify for exemption, you must complete a Mcare Declaration of Compliance Form with the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. Note: active-retired physicians are not required to have medical professional liability insurance.
The Compliance Form and instructions for completing it can be found here. You may also contact the Compliance Helpline by phone 717-783-3700 Ext. 280 for assistance with the Form.
If you do not maintain liability insurance, you will need to upload a document to PALS explaining why you do not. If you have requested exemption from Mcare or you have verified your exemption from Mcare, provide this information in your explanation. If you have an active-retired license, let the Board know that you do not maintain liability insurance because you are active-retired in your explanation.
6. Do I qualify for a CME exemption?
On PALS, there is a renewal question which asks whether you have met your CME requirements. Every biennial licensure cycle, MDs and DOs must complete 100 total credit hours of CME. For additional information on CME requirements, see PAMED’s FAQs on State CME Licensure Requirements for MDs and DOs.
Licensees with an active-retired license or licensees who were initially licensed within the current biennial cycle are exempt from the 100-credit CME requirement. If you qualify for an exemption of the continuing education requirements, you should answer yes to the PALS CME compliance question. Answering no will delay the processing of your renewal.
However, note two important considerations:
1. Licensees with an active-retired license are exempt from the 100-hour CME requirement, except for completion of two-hours of Board approved continuing education in child abuse recognition/reporting and two hours of Board approved education in pain management, identification of addiction or the practices of prescribing or dispensing of opioids (unless exempted from the opioid CME requirement, see Question 4 for details).
2. Initial applicants must submit no later than 12 months after obtaining an initial license or certification, documentation acceptable to the licensing board of the completion of at least two hours of education in pain management or identification of addiction and at least two hours of education in the practices of prescribing of opioids. Initial applicants must also take three continuing education credits from a Department of Human Services (DHS) approved course on the topic of mandated child abuse recognition and reporting.
Access PAMED’s wealth of CME courses and resources here.
7. If I answer a question incorrectly, can I change my answer after submitting my renewal?
You can make changes to your renewal application at any time prior to making payment and hitting submit on PALS. You can also save your application and return to it at any point prior to submittal. However, after you submit your application and payment information, you cannot return to your application and change answers to any of your renewal questions.
Although you cannot change an answer to a question after submitting your application, you can upload a clarifying statement to your application indicating that a question was mistakenly answered incorrectly.
BPOA has instructed PAMED on how licensees can upload a clarifying statement after receiving a discrepancy notice. After logging into your PALS account and selecting no changes or saving changes to your personal information page, you will be taken to your Dashboard. On your Dashboard, scroll down to find the Activities section. If you have received a discrepancy notice, the Activities section will indicate that your application “Needs Action.” From the Activities section, you can access an application checklist. Once this checklist is expanded, you can click to upload a clarifying statement. Your statement should be a Microsoft Word or PDF file.
8. How do I pay my renewal fee?
Renewal fees must be paid online through PALS. Licensees can pay using a Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover Card. If you do not have one of these cards, you can obtain a pre-paid credit card for payment. Checks are no longer accepted. In 2020, the renewal fee for MDs is $360 and $330 for DOs.
9. What if I did not renew my license in time?
If you did not renew your medical license before your licensure deadline, you must submit a reactivation application to your licensure board. A license not renewed before the licensure deadline is now an expired license.
Reactivation applications cannot be submitted online, reactivations must be submitted through the mail. The reactivation application for MDs can be found here. The reactivation application for DOs can be found here.
The reactivation application lists specific steps you must follow and documents you must submit to reactivate your license. Additional information on reactivation steps and requirements can be found here.
Where Can I Find Additional Information?
BPOA has released a Renewal Guide for MDs and DOs. This renewal guide can be accessed here.
The PALS Support Page provides answers to a number of the most common PALS questions asked by licensees. Additional PALS support can be obtained by contacting BPOA at 717-787-8503. Listen closely to the prompts and choose the option that best summarizes your PALS issue(s).
PAMED thanks BPOA for their assistance and looks forward to continued cooperation. We will continue to monitor the implementation of the PALS system and share updates with PAMED members.
PAMED members with questions can also contact PAMED’s KnowledgeCenter at 855-PAMED4U (855-726-3348) or KnowledgeCenter@pamedsoc.org.