April 15, 2020


Maybe We Never Needed All That Red TapeAmid a pandemic, states are rethinking rules that never protected consumers in the first place. (Paul Sherman, 4/15/20, The Atlantic)

As the nation's economy and health-care system struggle to adjust to the pandemic, more and more states are reexamining some of their oldest occupational and business regulations--rules that, while couched as protecting consumers, do far more to limit competition. And for those of us who have long questioned the supposed benefits of these policies, their erosion is welcome, even if the pandemic that caused it is not.

Right now, of course, much of the attention is correctly focused on barriers to work in the health-care industry. Yet here, where the state's interest in promoting public health and safety is undoubtedly highest, we are seeing some of the most sweeping reforms in decades. While some states have ordered their occupational licensing boards to speed up the licensure of new health-care practitioners, others--such as Indiana--are granting immediate licensing reciprocity to any practitioner licensed in any state. Even Florida, which has long jealously guarded its occupational licensing regime to prevent semi-retired snowbirds from poaching on the locals' turf, has gotten in on the act, allowing out-of-state health-care providers to practice telemedicine in the state without a license.

Besides these major changes, states have also begun enacting more modest, but no less welcome, changes to regulations that needlessly stand between doctors and the patients who might benefit from their services. Illinois has waived licensure fees for retired medical practitioners who wish to resume practice. Oklahoma and Massachusetts have eliminated restrictions that required doctors to have a preexisting doctor-patient relationship before they could offer telemedicine services. And Florida--no doubt recognizing the stress we're all under--has waived the requirement of a physical examination before a doctor may issue a certification for the medical use of marijuana.

But occupational licenses aren't the only long-established healthcare regulations being reconsidered. Also being reexamined are state certificate-of-need, or CON, laws. A product of 1970s-era economic regulation, CON laws require healthcare providers to prove that new services are "needed" before they may purchase certain large equipment, open new or expanded facilities, or--as is critically needed now--offer home health-care services. Often, these laws give an effective veto power to existing medical providers, allowing them to torpedo new competition for their own benefit.

Posted by at April 15, 2020 12:00 AM