Yesterday, on National Doctors’ Day no less, Missouri’s Governor took two big steps to bolster the state’s coronavirus response. The first grants license reciprocity for doctors from other states, which will immediately allow them to begin treating Missourians. The newly waived regulation applies to telemedicine as well, meaning that physicians in other states can now offer support to Missourians remotely. The second removes the onerous requirement that doctors collaborating with advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) be located within 75 miles of each other. Taken together, these measures greatly expand the ability of our nation’s health care providers to treat Missourians as our state deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.
My colleagues and I have written extensively about how Missouri could increase access to health care. One of the most crucial steps in a pandemic is allowing every competent health care professional from around the country that is willing to help in Missouri the ability to do so. License reciprocity does just that. Physicians from Illinois, Kansas, and elsewhere can now come to the Show-Me State—both physically and virtually—and begin their important work.
Waiving the distance requirement for collaborating physicians and APRNs will also significantly improve access to care. Previously, for APRNs to prescribe and treat patients in Missouri, they had to collaborate with a licensed physician that was within 75 miles. As the number of Missouri counties with positive coronavirus cases increases by the day, allowing health care providers to move around and serve each corner of the state without restriction is paramount. This change will both help contain the virus and improve access to care across Missouri.
Perhaps the biggest concern with the coronavirus outbreak is that it could overwhelm Missouri’s health care system, and it is good news that the governor has acted quickly to better prepare our state. But this is just the beginning, and there are still a variety of areas where removing unnecessary government barriers would strengthen Missouri’s response. The Show-Me Institute will keep shining a light on these important policy changes as our state navigates these trying times.