Have Your State’s Physician Licensing Requirements Been Waived?
Roughly one year ago, state-specific licensure requirements were temporarily waived. This meant out-of-state providers could practice across state lines without being licensed in both states. This allowed clinicians to provide care via telemedicine or in a traditional visit at a time of unprecedented crisis when all hands were most definitely on deck. What is the status of these waivers one year later?
Status of State Licensure Waivers, 2021
Foley & Lardner LLP reported last year that “Many state medical licensure laws provide an exception for in-state licensing for physicians and other health care professionals in an emergency situation.” They pointed out that the states failed to define what constituted an emergency; however, it seems clear that a global pandemic might qualify!
At the time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) had issued a number of emergency waivers in their COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Health Care Providers Fact Sheet. Subsequently, state medical and licensing boards around the United States adjusted their licensure qualifications and waived licensure portability requirements. While the clinician still needed to be licensed in one primary state, they could practice under this waiver across state lines. What we didn’t know was how long healthcare providers could work in multiple states.
In January 2021, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced its fifth extension of the licensure requirement waiver. As of February 26, 2021, 45 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands still had waivers in place. The amendment allows any healthcare provider licenses or certified in any state to prescribe, dispense, or administer COVID-19 vaccines in any other state. It also allowed any doctor, RN, or practical nurse whose certification or licensure expired within the past five years to provide immunizations, as long as they passed a CDC Vaccine Training program.
To search your state, click here.
Each state follows its own rules, which has always been complexity in the licensure process that most healthcare providers lament. During COVID, healthcare provider organizations were responsible for checking that the licensed providers coming from other states were not under any sort of disciplinary or administrative action in their home state. While this created more risk for these organizations, the ability to send healthcare providers from other states to COVID hotspots has lifted a huge weight off the shoulders of some hard-pressed frontline healthcare providers. This was also tremendously helpful for providing telemedicine services.
Telemedicine, which is a clinical encounter provided during a video conferencing session, served to help providers screen patients and triage them during the COVID pandemic. Instead of sending the patient to the ER or a crowded office waiting room, clinicians could diagnose and treat the patient from afar—no matter what state they were in.
What we don’t yet know is how long these waivers will remain in effect. The Joint Commission suggested it would be “for the period of time the organization continues to operate under its Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).” The MedSource Consultants team has been able during this time to help provide healthcare heroes to the latest COVID hotspots. While we went through some chaotic days over the past year, we’ve been proud to help healthcare organizations with the clinical teams they’ve need to cope with this crisis.