As President Trump continues to take deregulatory action to fight the coronavirus pandemic, states have taken similar measures to get people back to work and enable better access to healthcare.
For example, the Department of Labor has published a list of 33 states that have suspended, waived or eliminated regulations related to healthcare licenses and telemedicine to make it easier to deliver necessary services to their citizens during these uncertain times.
Health professionals and policy experts agree that many of these changes should be made permanent. It will both help the economy recover and allow these services to continue to be delivered as needed.
The administration recognized the need to reform occupational licensing laws in the states in the president’s October 21, 2019, “Principles on Workforce Freedom and Mobility.” While it took the pandemic for many of these states to reduce licensing restrictions and recognize licenses granted in other states, now that they are seeing the positive effect of these changes, they should take steps to make them permanent.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis set a good example for the rest of the country when he signed “The Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act” into law on June 30. The new law is one of the few that will permanently, rather than temporarily, change occupational licensing laws for hairdressers, interior designers, nutritionists and workers in other fields.
Most states have taken these actions on a temporary basis. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law on March 20 that will temporarily enable licensing boards to speed up the recognition of out-of-state licensing and allow more access telehealth.
On June 15, the Ohio General Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would reduce barriers for education, healthcare and small businesses.
This bill would help students by temporarily waiving requirements or extend time needed for state certification in health care, education and other industries affected by the pandemic. It would also temporarily suspend professional development hours and eliminate the temporary event salon license, reducing the cost of getting back to work.
There would be more access to healthcare for prospective nurses to complete their hours and to test for common illnesses and the coronavirus. It has not been considered by the Senate.
In Oklahoma, all occupational licenses that expire during the emergency will be extended, but they will expire 14 days after the emergency order has been withdrawn or terminated.
As telehealth has been expanding all over the nation, there are questions about whether or not restrictions that have been removed will remain permanent. Telehealth has proven beneficial for the elderly, disabled and residents of rural communities, and it will be important to continue this care even after the health care emergency subsides.
There is not a better time than now to remove barriers that will allow people to save time and money. Occupational licensing laws have hurt consumers and low-income Americans. Lifting these restrictions will improve the mobility of those who wish to move to other states as well as those who are required to move.
This is especially important for military families in which a non-military spouse has a professional license. In far too many cases, the time it would take to obtain a license in the new state is longer than the time the post will last.
If the licensee is in good standing in the state from which he or she came, that should be sufficient to be licensed anywhere else.
While it is clear that progress has been made to get the economy back on track, more states still need to reduce regulatory barriers to occupational licenses and make them permanent.
Cutting the red tape should not only be for emergency periods of time like the current pandemic but should be a continuing effort to help families and businesses realize the American Dream.
It is time for more states to consider and pass permanent free-market solutions that will allow Americans to recover from the pandemic, return to work, and boost the economy for years to come.