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COVID-19

The U.S. is relaxing rules for medical professionals working across state lines

David Brancaccio, Chris Farrell, and Alex Schroeder Mar 24, 2020
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Karen Ducey/Getty Images
COVID-19

The U.S. is relaxing rules for medical professionals working across state lines

David Brancaccio, Chris Farrell, and Alex Schroeder Mar 24, 2020
Karen Ducey/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The fabric of the U.S. economy is already changing, perhaps in permanent ways. For instance, the pandemic is calling into question America’s system of licensing health care professionals in one state, but not in another.

Marketplace’s senior economics contributor Chris Farrell explained how states are making changes. The following is an edited transcript.

David Brancaccio: So, what are we talking about? It’s like, if you’re a health care professional, the ability to ply your trade across state lines.

Chris Farrell: That’s right. So both the states and the federal government are lowering these barriers. So let me give you an example: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, he says that the state can now offer licensed, out-of -state medical professionals a Massachusetts license to practice in that state in one day. Colorado state regulators, they say, if you’re a licensed medical professional, and you’re in another state, you can immediately start working in their state. So they’re really bringing down these state license barriers to physicians and nurses practicing in other states.

Brancaccio: What about the feds in Washington? They also have rules about who can practice and who can’t?

Farrell: Yes, and they’ve been really relaxing a lot of rules and requirements. The federal government is really pushing for telemedicine for telehealth. So this is that you can do some medical conversations, medical diagnosis, remotely and online. And this telehealth option is seen as critical, so that if an area becomes a hotspot, you can tap remotely into health care professionals in other states to provide some services for the Medicare and Medicaid populations.

Brancaccio: Now, if one regards the existing rules that are changing as needless bureaucracy, you can see this as progress. But you know, some of these rules were there for a reason. You don’t want standards to fall.

Farrell: No, you don’t want standards to fall. But there has been this growing sense that so many of these rules are inconsistent, they’re inefficient, they’re arbitrary. And Morris Kleiner, an economist at the University of Minnesota, he says that more than one-quarter of the U.S. workforce now requires a license to do their job, and that’s up fivefold from the 1950s. So there has been this focus, this look, on these licenses, and to what extent are they a barrier to competition?

Brancaccio: And after this coronavirus period, however long that is, will we snap back to the way it was before?

Farrell: You know, I don’t see it. I think we’re at a period of time that that barrier needs to come down. And here’s a classic example of why that barrier needs to come down: If you’re licensed in one state, why not practice in another?

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

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