State medical boards are changing licensing requirements in response to COVID-19. This post outlines those changes and our thoughts on what this means for providers, telemedicine companies, and the future of healthcare.
The US government has responded to the COVID-19 in several significant ways when it comes to healthcare regulation. One major change is coverage for telemedicine services as it relates to COVID-19:
"Under President Trump’s leadership, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has broadened access to Medicare telehealth services so that beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility. These policy changes build on the regulatory flexibilities granted under the President’s emergency declaration. CMS is expanding this benefit on a temporary and emergency basis under the 1135 waiver authority and Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. The benefits are part of the broader effort by CMS and the White House Task Force to ensure that all Americans – particularly those at high-risk of complications from the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 – are aware of easy-to-use, accessible benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the community spread of this virus."
Another big change happening at the state level is medical licensing. Traditionally, healthcare providers have had to obtain a license in each state they want to practice in. This applies to telemedicine too. So if a doctor is licensed in California only, that doctor cannot provide care to patients in Texas, regardless of whether the doctor-patient relationship is done over a call or in person.
However, in times of crisis (such as the current state of affairs with COVID-19) some state medical boards have protocols in place to allow doctors who are not licensed in the state to practice. This makes it even harder to keep track of licensing requirements as they are continuously changing on a state-by-state basis.
At Medallion, we've created a free product that allows both doctors and telemedicine companies to understand these continuously evolving licensing requirements by state.
Most of the new regulations have qualifiers that it will last for only 30-60 days with the option to extend. This means that as COVID-19 improves (🤞) these emergency licenses will expire and become inactive.
While this could set an interesting precedent for states to accept cross-state licensure, individual states are not necessarily incentivized to make this happen, as they make money for each new license. Although this could potentially be solved at the federal level by maintaining fees for cross-state licensure, the government generally tends to move slowly on these kinds of changes. So while it may make sense, unfortunately for the foreseeable future we believe medical licensing is here to stay.
If you're a healthcare provider looking to obtain new licenses or telemedicine company looking to get more licenses for your staff, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be happy to help.