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Blunt, Murphy Introduce Bill to Allow Health Care Professionals to Render Services Anywhere Throughout COVID-19 Pandemic

Bipartisan TREAT Act Provides Temporary Uniform Licensing Standards, Enables Licensed Health Care Providers to Render Services Anywhere—Including Telehealth—to Fully Fight COVID-19

August 04, 2020

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, and Chris Murphy (Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced legislation that allows any health care practitioner or professional in good standing with a valid practitioners’ license to render services—including telehealth—anywhere for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, health care professionals must maintain licenses in each state in which they render services. While most states have expanded licensing rules and reciprocity, their actions have been varied, inconsistent, and time-limited, which has created licensing barriers to a comprehensive COVID-19 response. The Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment (TREAT) Act would provide temporary licensing reciprocity for all practitioners or professionals, including those who treat both physical and mental health conditions, in all states for all types of services (in-person and telehealth) during the COVID-19 response and for future national emergencies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for our health care system, like reaching patients who are advised to avoid clinics and hospitals, allowing students to continue care when they’re away from campuses, or speeding reinforcements to areas with a high number of cases,” said Blunt. “The TREAT Act responds to those challenges by increasing flexibility for providers to care for patients wherever they are. The bill maintains all the safeguards patients should expect, while eliminating bureaucratic hurdles that impede access to care. It’s the right approach to make sure we keep people connected with their providers and allow frontline workers to lend support in areas where they’re needed most.” 

“COVID-19 has hammered our already fragile health care system, and the last thing our frontline workers need is more bureaucratic red tape. We should be doing everything in our power to make sure any health care provider, in good standing and with a valid license to practice medicine, can provide services in any location throughout the pandemic,” said Murphy. “That’s why we are introducing the TREAT Act, which provides a temporary uniform licensing standard so health care workers can help those in need, including through telehealth, regardless of the patient’s physical location. With over 140,000 Americans dead and millions more infected, we must be all hands on deck to contain COVID-19.”

The TREAT Act would:

  • Enable health care professionals licensed in good standing to care for patients (whether in-person or through telehealth visits) from any state during this national emergency without jeopardizing their state licensure or facing potential penalties for unauthorized practice of medicine;

  • Require the health care professional to obtain oral or written acknowledgment of services;

  • Require health care professionals who use this authority to notify a state or local licensing board within 30 days of first practicing in a state other than where licensed or certified;

  • Preclude any service that is otherwise prohibited by a state where a patient is located and require adherence to specified prescribing requirements of the state;

  • Allow authority for a state where a health care professional has practiced under this reciprocity measure to pursue investigations and disciplinary actions, including the ability to exclude a clinician from practicing in the state under the Act;

  • Not include health care professionals otherwise licensed under a compact agreement or licensed in the state where the patient resides;

  • Apply the licensure reciprocity for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, with a 180-day phase out; and

  • Allow the Health and Human Services Secretary to use this authority for a future national emergency when a declaration has been made under the Public Health Service Act and either the National Emergencies Act or for at least 12 states under the Stafford Act.
  • This legislation is currently supported by Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, and BJC HealthCare in Missouri.

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