State Policy Network
Tennessee Passes Several Healthcare Reforms that Lower Prices and Increase Access to Care 

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed several bills into law that will make it easier for Tennessee families to access quality healthcare at a lower cost. These new laws will:  

  1. Improve Tennesseans’ access to telemedicine.  
  1. Remove burdensome regulations that make it hard for healthcare providers to expand certain services, including neonatal ICUs, MRI machines, and long-term care hospitals, among others.  
  1. Allow pharmacists to prescribe more medicine to patients.  

Beacon Center Critical to Advancing these Needed Healthcare Reforms   

Reforming healthcare has long been a priority for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and they played a crucial role in helping advance these reforms. Beacon published timely research highlighting policy reforms (including those highlighted here) that will expand access to healthcare for all Tennesseans. 

Allowing Tennesseans to More Easily Access Telemedicine   

First, a new telehealth law removes the requirement that the healthcare service provider or healthcare system have an established provider-patient relationship that is documented by an in-person encounter within 16 months prior to the interactive visit.  

This reform makes it easier for Tennessee families to access the benefits of telemedicine— convenient technology that has many benefits, including reducing the time, effort, and cost of seeing a doctor. 

Repealing Burdensome Certificate-of-Need Law Laws 

Second, Tennessee partially repealed its certificate-of-need (CON) law. Several states have CON laws on the books, which are regulations that require healthcare providers to get special permission from the government before adding or expanding healthcare services or facilities. Because CON laws limit the supply of healthcare, they harm patients and taxpayers, who face higher healthcare costs and fewer options.  

In this recent legislation, Tennessee removed certificate-of-need requirements for neonatal ICUs, MRI machines, burn units, open heart surgery centers, and long-term care hospitals, among others. In addition, counties without a hospital would also be exempt from most CONs to enable more emergency room and hospital openings in areas where they are currently lacking. This will be especially beneficial for small rural communities in Tennessee, which often have limited healthcare options. 

Giving Pharmacists the Power to Prescribe Medicine  

Finally, Tennessee passed a law that gives pharmacists the ability to prescribe more medication directly to patients. Most states have something called scope-of-practice laws, which determine what services healthcare professionals, such as a nurses, nurse practitioners (NPs), physician’s assistants, and pharmacists, can legally provide—and in what settings.  

The new law allows pharmacists to prescribe medications following the results of certain rapid diagnostic tests, as well as other products such as fluoride, EpiPens, and naloxone. 

Earlier this year, the Beacon Center released a report showing how empowering pharmacists with the ability to conduct basic diagnostic tests would expand access to care. They found that 90% of Tennesseans live within five miles of a pharmacy, making this a commonsense approach to reduce government barriers to healthcare access. The Legislature took their recommendation and pharmacists are now able to administer more tests and treat basic illnesses. 

Justin Owen, president and CEO of the Beacon Center, added:  

“In our October Beacon Poll, we found that 57% of Tennesseans support allowing pharmacists to diagnose and treat certain common illnesses, such as flu or strep throat. The same poll also indicated that 45% of Tennesseans support reforming CON requirements, while just 13% oppose these reforms. Thankfully, the Legislature listened to the calls of the people this year and followed Beacon’s recommendations to make two massive changes that will greatly improve our citizens’ access to healthcare.” 

Additional Reading 

So Long, Legislature 
Beacon Center 

Certificate-of-Need Laws: Why They Exist and Who They Hurt 
State Policy Network  

Addressing the Growing Healthcare Shortage: Scope-of-Practice Laws  
State Policy Network  

Organization: State Policy Network