Recommendations to Ease Mounting Healthcare Burden

March 16, 2020, Harrisburg, Pa. — The Pennsylvania State Legislature should prioritize flexible medical care as it returns to session this week aiming to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

To help avoid strain on the healthcare system, the Legislature should:

  1. Expand access to telemedicine by passing Senate Bill 857.
  2. Allow medical professionals licensed in other states to practice in Pennsylvania.
  3. Relax limits on practice for nurse practitioners by passing SB 25/HB 100.

“Expanding access to telemedicine and decreasing regulatory restrictions on healthcare professionals will ease the burden on both providers and patients,” said Commonwealth Foundation Vice President Nathan Benefield. “In this trying time, we should prioritize healthcare access by lifting barriers to care.”

Telemedicine has already proven to be a critical tool for both patients and doctors in the fight against coronavirus by facilitating social distancing. Hospitals can ensure staff and other patients avoid contact with patients whom they’ve consulted with virtually and presume to be infected.

Telemedicine can increase the availability of medical professionals for routine health concerns if the virus increases demand on hospitals. It has also proven to reduce costs and increase access to services like mental healthcare.

The federal government has lifted regulatory restrictions on medical professionals practicing across state lines via the March 13 emergency declaration. Pennsylvania should make that temporary decision permanent by eliminating these restrictions in state law, and extending licensing reciprocity to out-of-state telemedicine providers.

Current state law also mandates that nurse practitioners enter into expensive “collaborative agreements” with two physicians in order to provide the full scope of medical care that they are trained to provide. Releasing nurse practitioners from these regulations will enable qualified professionals to provide more care to more patients in need.

“We’re all taking commonsense measures to combat the spread of the virus, such as social distancing and handwashing,” continued Benefield. “State government can do even more. Healthcare professionals, private companies, and our medical industry are capable of great things when restraints on their ability to act are removed. We hope lawmakers will act swiftly to provide flexibility in our healthcare system during this pandemic and for the long-term.”

Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres at 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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