State Policy Network
Checking in on legislative sessions: What states passed healthcare reforms to improve care and lower costs?

Among the many issues Americans are worried about right now, the soaring cost of healthcare continues to be a top concern for many American families. Healthcare costs have exploded in recent years. In fact, the United States has one of the highest costs of healthcare in the world.

What’s more, many Americans, especially those who live in rural areas, have trouble accessing care.

How can we lower healthcare costs and ensure all Americans have access to quality healthcare? That question drives the work of State Policy Network’s Healthcare Working Group—a group of state policy organizations that collaborate on ideas for state-level healthcare reforms, share best practices, and serve as a voice for states in DC.

During this year’s state legislative sessions (which primarily start in January and end in June), many states adopted policies that improve healthcare options and lower costs for American families.

With the help of SPN’s Healthcare Working Group and other local policy organizations, states reformed scope-of-practice laws to allow doctors and nurses to treat patients more easily; expanded telemedicine so more patients can access this innovative technology; and repealed burdensome certificate-of-need laws that prevent new hospitals from forming. Take a look below for all the ways states are improving healthcare for the people in their communities.

Arizona helps patients with new Right to Try legislation

In April 2022, Arizona became the first state in the nation to pass Right to Try for Individualized Treatments (Right to Try 2.0). Typically, new treatments must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being made available to patients, meaning patients with rare and ultra-rare illnesses are often left without treatment options in the US. This new law will allow patients to access cutting-edge, individualized treatments. The Goldwater Institute was the reason behind this reform, first developing this solution, then ushering it through the legislative process. Goldwater is a key member of SPN’s Healthcare Working Group and plans to pursue this reform in other states.

Florida improves its telemedicine policy

Florida adopted a new law that eases some restrictions on telehealth in the state. The law means patients will be able to receive care from their physicians over the phone. This is a change from previous law that prevented telehealth from being provided by audio-only devices. The expansion also allows more prescriptions to be renewed remotely. The James Madison Institute (JMI) has long been a leader not only in the state when it comes to raising awareness around the benefits of healthcare reform, but also is a leader in a Network of state think tanks working to improve American lives. JMI is also a key member of SPN’s Healthcare Working Group.

Michigan allows out-of-state doctors to practice in the Mitten State

In December 2021, Michigan policymakers made two reforms that were adopted during the pandemic permanent. First, the state passed a law that allows out-of-state practitioners to work in Michigan during epidemics. Second, the state expanded scope-of-practice laws for nurses, allowing them to provide certain medical services if they’ve demonstrated their ability to do so and have met certain requirements. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy played a significant role in helping these reforms pass. The Center has long been a leader in the state when it comes to raising awareness around the benefits of healthcare reform. Mackinac is also a key member of SPN’s Healthcare Working Group.

After Montana repeals its certificate-of-need laws, 18 additional counties see more healthcare services

The Frontier Institute in Montana highlighted that since reforming the state’s certificate-of-need (CON) laws in 2021, two home health companies had already expanded service to at least 18 additional counties, something that would have required a CON approval before. Certificate-of-need laws are regulations that require healthcare providers to get special permission from the government before adding or expanding healthcare services or facilities. Originally designed to improve access to healthcare for American families, CON laws are now restricting much needed healthcare capacity, hurting those they were intended to help. The Frontier Institute helped policymakers adopt this reform in last year’s legislative session.

North Carolina halts Medicaid expansion, ensuring the program focuses on the truly needy

Thanks to work of the John Locke Foundation, Medicaid expansion in North Carolina has been halted for the time being. JLF is part of the SPN’s Healthcare working group and has worked tirelessly to educate policymakers and North Carolina citizens about the problems with expanding Medicaid in the state. The Foundation has highlighted how expanding the program will leave less services for the traditional Medicaid population, which includes pregnant women, poor children, and those with disabilities.

Ohio expands telemedicine and welcomes medical professionals to the state

In December 2021, Ohio passed a law that expanded access to telehealth services. This Buckeye Institute-championed policy modernizes Ohio’s telehealth rules and will make it easier for Ohioans to access medical services and get the care they need.

In addition, while Ohio continues to make progress on adopting The Buckeye Institute-championed universal occupational recognition, the Buckeye State made it easier for physician assistants and nurses who move to Ohio to start serving patients immediately. By joining the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and the Nurse Licensure Compact in July 2021, Ohio took a step in the right direction and reinforced the critical need for greater flexibility and license recognition across state lines. Buckeye is also a key member of SPN’s Healthcare Working Group.

Virginia expands telehealth law to include out-of-state mental and behavioral services

Virginia patients can now access out-of-state mental and behavioral health services via telehealth appointments, thanks to a new law. This new law will likely serve as a model for other states in future years. The Virginia Institute for Public Policy was involved in this win, promoting the legislation and explaining how it will increase access to care for Virginia families. The Institute is also part of SPN’s Healthcare Working Group.

Related Reading:

Arizona Helps Patients with New Right To Try Legislation

State Policy Network

Addressing The Growing Healthcare Shortage: Scope-Of-Practice Laws

State Policy Network

Certificate-Of-Need Laws: Why They Exist And Who They Hurt

State Policy Network

Telehealth: Explained

State Policy Network

Categories: Policy Issues
Policy Issues: Healthcare