More than 230 organizations want state governors to preserve and expand state medical licensure flexibilities for telehealth until the public health emergency ends, according to a letter led by the Alliance for Connected Care, ALS Association and National Organization for Rare Disorders.
Nearly 30 states have allowed their emergency declarations to lapse in recent months, according to the Alliance. That’s led many people to suddenly lose access to telehealth services delivered by out-of-state providers as exceptions to state medical licensing rules expired alongside the emergency declarations.
It can be especially challenging for people at high risk for COVID-19, those who require specialized care, people with mobility issues and those living in rural areas or areas with provider shortages, the letter said.
“Given the urgency of the times as more states consider rolling back flexibilities enacted at the start of the pandemic, states must act now to ensure patients can access the care they need where they reside and when they need it, without having to choose between cancelling an appointment or traveling long distances and risking potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus for an in-person visit,” the letter said.
A coalition of patient advocates, hospitals and health systems, digital health companies and professional associations signed the letter, including Amazon, the American Health Information Management Association, Amwell, Epic, Mayo Clinic, One Medical and Providence.
During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the federal government suspended rules requiring physicians to be licensed where a patient is located to bill Medicare and Medicaid for medical services. Nearly all states followed suit by allowing out-of-state providers to practice without a permanent license during the pandemic. Some states waived in-state licensure requirements altogether, while others let out-of-state providers apply for temporary licenses.
But as those waivers dry up, so does access to telehealth. That’s led many people to advocate for permanent changes to state medical licensing that allow providers to deliver telehealth services across state lines. Telehealth could face long-term barriers to its growth unless states relax their medical licensing rules.
“Moving forward, we call on governors and state legislatures to expand their participation in health professional compacts that allow for the safe and accountable mutual recognition of health professional licensure among states,” the letter said.