As the coronavirus pandemic reaches communities across the country, there are growing concerns that our healthcare system will not have enough providers or supplies to meet local needs related to the virus or to care for Americans who have other critical health conditions. It’s critical that we take steps to keep our communities and loved ones safe, strengthen our healthcare system to respond to the crisis, and stem the spread of the virus.
The good news? States are in the best position to respond to the needs of their citizens, and there are several steps they can take to expand access to life-saving healthcare.
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SPN’s Healthcare Working Group offers five solutions that states can pursue immediately to improve healthcare access for all Americans as we work to stem the spread of COVID-19.
1. Free up healthcare resources for the sick by removing barriers that restrict the use of healthcare beds and medical equipment.
States should increase the supply of hospital beds and ventilators by removing all Certificate-of-Need (CON) barriers to hospital and healthcare facilities.
2. Fortify and expand the number of healthcare responders.
Our current healthcare providers need back-up. Yet state-level scope-of-practice laws govern—and often limit—the activities healthcare providers may engage in when caring for patients. States can bolster the number of available healthcare providers and facilities through scope-of-practice reform.
3. Allow patients to seek healthcare expertise remotely to avoid spread of disease.
As we navigate the coronavirus pandemic, other health needs will not disappear. We need to make it possible for relatively healthy patients to access medical care at home—away from carriers of the coronavirus. Tele-health and telemedicine solutions enable the healthcare system to continue serving these patients and keep them protected in this rapidly changing environment.
4. Allow healthcare professionals to serve where needs are greatest.
Many states currently require in-state licensing before a medical professional, who holds a current license in another state, is allowed to practice. According to The Buckeye Institute, states should follow Arizona’s lead and allow licensing reciprocity among all fifty states. This solution is especially powerful for states hit hardest by COVID-19 because it would allow them to tap into the expertise and support of healthcare professionals in multiple states who can help meet the growing needs.
5. Give patients financial peace of mind by eliminating surprise billing.
COVID-19 will most certainly have an impact on our economy. It is already leading to thousands of job and income losses for Americans. We need to ensure people don’t get treated and end up with enormous medical costs.
The Buckeye Institute | March 23, 2020
On March 18, the Ohio medical board suspended regulations that hindered access to telehealth and made it easier for out-of-state doctors to be licensed to practice in the state. The Ohio Governor expanded Medicaid coverage to all telehealth services.
The Nebraska Governor issued an Executive Order that requires the state to recognize the occupational licenses of healthcare workers from other states in an effort to combat the threat of healthcare worker shortages from the coronavirus.
The Kansas Governor waived regulations which kept out-of-state doctors from providing services to Kansans and lifted burdensome regulations that made it harder to obtain needed supplies.
Goldwater Institute | March 17, 2020
Telemedicine enables patients to seek healthcare expertise remotely. Some healthcare insurers are waiving co-pays for telemedicine visits and Medicare will temporarily reimburse providers for telemedicine visits for a wide range of services.
Center of the American Experiment | March 18, 2020
A shortage of medical supplies and personnel has made it difficult for some communities to deal with the coronavirus. Colorado, Texas, and Washington, DC have made policy changes that removed restrictions limiting their ability to bring in much needed medical expertise and resources.
Independence Institute | March 19, 2020
By expanding the number of healthcare responders and removing restrictions on out-of-state healthcare providers, Colorado has taken exemplary steps to ensure the state has the medical talent necessary to combat the coronavirus.
Mackinac Center | March 18, 2020
Michigan expanded access to healthcare by temporarily removing excessive licensing requirements that prevented healthcare professionals to go where they’re most needed and expediting Certificate of Need requests to increase healthcare resources.
Mississippi Center for Public Policy | March 19, 2020
The Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure increased remote access to healthcare by lifting telemedicine regulations that prevented out-of-state physicians from utilizing telemedicine in Mississippi without securing a license to practice medicine in the state.
North Carolina’s emergency declaration allowed out-of-state health professionals to provide care without obtaining a North Carolina license. The state also lifted Certificate of Need restrictions on hospitals, enabling them to increase the number of available beds quickly to meet patient needs.
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs | March 18, 2020
The Oklahoma Governor has signed an executive order that allowed healthcare providers to go where they’re most needed, gave patients remote access to healthcare via telemedcine, and lifted restrictions on transporting medical resources.
Progress is being made, but more reforms are needed to mitigate both the short and long-term effects of the pandemic. State think tanks offer their recommendations for treating the sick and bolstering state healthcare systems. While these solutions are tagged by state, many of the ideas can be applied across state lines to help as many people as possible.