To help communities weather the coronavirus pandemic, states passed significant emergency healthcare reforms in 2020, expanding healthcare supply and access. But many of these changes come with an expiration date.
There should be no expiration date on access to quality healthcare. The healthcare solutions adopted during the pandemic offer more than a response to the current crisis: They are long-term fixes to America’s healthcare system that will improve quality, access, and costs for years to come. States should make these good healthcare policy changes permanent so that all Americans can receive affordable, quality healthcare when they need it most.
Six Reforms to Increase Americans’ Healthcare Access
Certificate of Need Repeal
Originally intended to increase the supply of care providers and quality of care received, Certificate of Need laws are now limiting healthcare access by requiring providers to obtain permission from state authorities before they build or expand their facilities. Repealing this unnecessary red tape can help lower costs, increase access, and improve patient care, particularly in rural areas or regions facing a sudden increase in demand, as during a pandemic.
By allowing Americans to consult with doctors and medical practitioners from the comfort of their home, telehealth, also known as telemedicine, makes it possible for many more people to receive quality care. It not only limits exposure to disease and allow patients access to highly skilled specialists, it also reduces the time, effort, and expense of getting to an appointment. This is particularly important in rural areas where the nearest medical office may be hours away or with patients for whom transportation or childcare is a barrier to seeking care.
Scope of Practice
As demand for healthcare increased during the pandemic, many states loosened regulations limiting the activities healthcare providers may engage in when caring for patients. Qualified health care professionals were now able to practice to the full extent of their capabilities, reducing wait times for patients and freeing doctors to focus on patients with serious conditions. States can increase residents’ access to and quality of care at all times by making expanded scope of practice permanent.
Many states require medical professionals licensed in other states to obtain an in-state license before they are allowed to practice. This process can be time-consuming and costly, limiting the number of medical professionals within a state who are able to practice. By following Arizona’s lead and adopting licensing reciprocity, states would be able to tap into the expertise and support of healthcare professionals from every state to help meet any surges in demand for medical care.
Ending Surprise Billing
The practice of surprise medical billing, when a patient receives a large bill for procedures or care that exceeds what is covered by health insurance, is a serious problem — one that causes many patients unexpected stress and leads to long-term debt. By requiring medical providers to be upfront about service costs and eliminate any surprises, states can empower patients to make informed decisions about their care.
This trend reports offers an overview of the state healthcare reforms have been adopted in the past year to enable state leaders to identify opportunities to keep good healthcare policies in place.