It’s always a good idea for our health care industry to prioritize increasing access to medical services. But during times of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing today, reducing regulations and expanding access to critical care becomes not only prudent, but crucial.
Over the course of this crisis, we have learned a painful lesson: All too often our health care system stands in the way of doctors and nurses helping patients.
Instead of doubling down on a bureaucratic approach that creates unnecessary barriers to quality care, we ought to reimagine what health care could look like in this country.
In Colorado, we are realizing this goal by making telehealth more accessible across the state.
During the height of the pandemic, it became increasingly important to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus while still allowing patients to consult with their providers when medical needs arose.
To ensure that patients could meet with the doctor or nurse of their choice from the safety of their own homes, our state legislature just passed Senate Bill 20-212, a bipartisan bill that relaxes outdated restrictions on telemedicine.
The bill allows rural health clinics, the federal Indian health service, and federally qualified health centers to deliver telehealth services to Medicaid patients.
This bill also expands the kinds of services health care providers can deliver to Medicaid patients through telehealth to include physical therapy, occupational therapy, hospice care, home health care, and pediatric behavioral health care.
“It’s a win-win situation for patients because there are things you could talk about while sitting in your own home, at your own comfort level, that really do affect your health, that you might not say when you go to a clinic or doctor’s office in person,” said state Rep. Matt Soper, a lead sponsor of the legislation. “That part I think is something that could help with not just physical recovery, but also the mental health component.”
By opening Colorado’s existing telehealth system to innovation, providers are empowered to do what they do best — help people live safer, healthier lives. We urge Gov. Jared Polis to sign this important piece of legislation into law.
But this is just a preview of what it would mean to reimagine health care.
The Mercatus Center’s 2020 edition of the Health Care Openness and Access Project looked closely at how each state regulates an individual’s access to care, and ranked each accordingly. Colorado came in at No. 1, with the fewest restrictions on health-care access.
Colorado is lucky to have fewer health-care restrictions in place than other states. But there is still more that can be done
As it stands today, licensed health-care practitioners from other states are prohibited from practicing freely in Colorado. However, at the beginning of the pandemic, Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies, under the direction of Gov. Polis, enacted a temporary order that relaxed this restriction, allowing practitioners to freely practice across state lines
By making this temporary change permanent, Colorado can increase the availability of medical professionals able to provide care, increasing access to health services across the board.
Another aspect of health care reform our legislature should consider is waiving scope-of-practice restrictions for advanced practice registered nurses.
As we continue to navigate this health emergency, physicians’ assistants should be allowed to practice without physician supervision. Likewise, nurse practitioners should be able to prescribe medications without completing 1,000 hours of physician-supervised practice.
This will empower these health care professionals to utilize the full scope of their medical training and deliver more care.
COVID-19 has challenged our health care system as it never has been challenged before. But this crisis has given us the opportunity to make necessary changes that will help us navigate not only this crisis, but future crises as well.
Jesse Mallory is state director for Americans for Prosperity-Colorado.