U.S. Reps. Bob Latta (R-OH) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) hope their legislation to license health care professionals in every state will increase access to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation, the Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment (TREAT) Act, would provide temporary licensing reciprocity for health care professionals across all states for all types of services during the pandemic.
Latta and Dingle said they hope that by providing licensing reciprocity across the county, health care professionals could use telehealth to treat Americans anywhere in the country. The bipartisan Act would allow licensed professionals in good standing to provide telehealth visits from any state without jeopardizing their licensing.
“Prioritizing the well-being of the American people must be at the forefront of any decision during times of public health emergencies. Americans are utilizing telehealth to receive needed care and treatments more than ever before because of the Coronavirus pandemic,” Latta said. “If a health care provider is available to provide care remotely, but they practice in a different state than the patient, there should not be hoops for the health care provider or patient to jump through in order for the patient to receive the care they need.”
The act would require healthcare professionals to notify their state licensing board within 30 days if they chose to practice in another state, but that they would not be able to provide services that are otherwise prohibited by a state where a patient is located and would be required to adhere to specific prescribing requirements of the patient’s state. Additionally, the bill allows states where a healthcare professional practices to pursue investigations and perform any disciplinary actions, including prohibiting a clinician from practicing in their state.
According to the bill, the reciprocity would last for 180 days after the end of the public health emergency. Still, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services would have the authority to re-issue the reciprocity arrangement in a future national health emergency.
“The pandemic has stretched thin our already fragmented health care system. As the industry innovates to better serve patients and meet the need, we can’t let bureaucratic red tape get in the way. Health care providers, in good standing and with a valid license to practice, should be able to provide services in any location through telehealth,” said Dingell. “That’s why we worked together on this bipartisan legislation that provides temporary standards so health care providers can do their jobs, and patients can get the care they need.”
A companion bill was introduced into the Senate by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO and Chris Murphy (D-C).