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Licensure Storm Rages On

October 30, 2017 By: InTouch Health

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, CMS waived some of its restrictions on interstate licensure so that telehealth providers from across the U.S. could lend a helping hand. For example, there weren’t enough pediatric specialists to treat the thousands of children forced to stay in Houston area shelters after Harvey hit – and telehealth came to the rescue.

Telehealth’s stellar role in these disasters begs the question: Wouldn’t removing interstate licensing roadblocks be beneficial long after the crises are over? Many of the people displaced by hurricanes are going to need medical follow-up for months or years to come. Pulmonary MDs will need to check them for signs of asthma and mold-related problems, and dermatologists will need to keep a close eye on sometimes fatal skin conditions like the one that already claimed one life after Hurricane Harvey.

Texas recently introduced legislation to adopt the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC), a fast-track pathway for physicians to gain licensure in multiple states. There are now 22 states and territories that have signed the compact, but Florida and Puerto Rico aren’t among them.

Most of the ratifying states thus far are predominantly rural – like Idaho, Montana and Nebraska. It’s now time for big states like California and New York to get on board. Making it easier to practice telemedicine across borders would help those states handle the next Superstorm Sandy or 7.0 earthquake, but the benefits would extend far beyond disaster relief.

There are more than two dozen state medical boards that are still dragging their feet on the compact. The standard complaint – that telehealth takes business away from in-person providers – is just a stalling tactic. To end the logjam, the IMLC has made it easy for state legislators to take the lead because the language and terms of the compact must be identical in every state. Lawmakers don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just pass this simple blueprint for cross-border licensure.