A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., would imperil funding for states that do not join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact within three years.
The compact, which currently includes 29 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Guam, was formally introduced in the fall of 2014 in recognition of the fact that physicians will increasingly practice in different states via telehealth.
Yoho’s legislation would make funding from the Bureau of Health Workforce conditional on adopting the compact.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact became operational in 2017.
Physicians can qualify to practice medicine in multiple states, receiving separate licenses for each, via one application within the compact. The licensing is still state-based, but the application process is streamlined.
“States that participate in the Compact are able to streamline licensure by using an expedited process to share information with each other that physicians have previously submitted in their State of Principal License – the state in which a physician holds a full and unrestricted medical license,” reads the compact’s website.
To be eligible, physicians must hold a full, unrestricted medical license in their state of primary residence, where they also practice at least 25% of their business. They must also have graduated from an accredited medical school and not have any history of disciplinary actions toward their license, among other requirements.
The compact is administered by the Interstate Medical Licensure Commission, which has two representatives from each participating state medical board. In addition to the 29 states already participating, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Georgia and Oklahoma have taken steps to join the compact.
THE LARGER TREND
The IMLC may serve as an answer of sorts to the question of long-term interstate licensure, which has loomed large in response to the recent boom in virtual care. Some doctors in Philadelphia, for example, have pointed out that without the waivers they could not treat patients via telemedicine who lived within walking distance over the river in New Jersey.
However, experts have predicted that after the pandemic the waivers will likely disappear. For its part, the American Medical Association has expressed dismay at the idea of long-term licensure waivers remaining in place. The American Telemedicine Association has not itself pushed for national licensure, but rather for regional compacts.
ON THE RECORD
The issue of licensure “is particularly relevant as we continue the battle against COVID-19,” said Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wis., who cosponsored the bill.
“Many physicians seeking to contribute their services in other states or in a telehealth capacity were faced with restrictions based on their state of licensure,” he said. “As we build on the momentum for telehealth services that we have generated throughout this pandemic it is critical that we ensure doctors are able to practice medicine free from unnecessary red tape.”