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

February 02, 2021

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the U.S. 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, along with along with U.S. Representatives Bob Latta (Ohio) and Debbie Dingell (Mich.), reintroduced legislation that allows any health care 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. 

“Allowing health care providers to treat patients wherever they live will help our health care system better adapt to the physical and mental health challenges of this pandemic,” said Blunt. “The TREAT Act eliminates bureaucratic hurdles that impede access to care without taking away any of the safeguards patients should expect. The bill is widely supported by the medical community and is one way we can support their critical work through this public health emergency.”

“Right now, America is in the midst of a public health crisis and Congress should be doing everything we can to allow licensed medical practitioners to provide their services from any location,” said Murphy. “By providing temporary uniform licensing standards, the TREAT Act seeks to remove bureaucratic red tape and make telehealth more accessible to anyone in need. It’s all hands on deck until we get this pandemic under control, and this legislation helps us get ahead of the virus.”

“Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth is making it easier for Americans to receive needed medical attention, all without leaving their homes,” said Latta. “If a health care provider is able to care for a patient remotely, they should be able to so without having to jump through regulatory hoops. I’m proud to work with Senators Blunt and Murphy, as well as my friend Congresswoman Dingell, to introduce the TREAT Act – a bipartisan solution working to ensure patients get the care they need without added complications. It’s a win-win for patients and health care providers across the country.”

“Broadening the scope of care accessible to patients as this virus rages in every corner of our country can and will save lives,” said Dingell. “Through the TREAT Act, we can utilize new technology to treat patients while keeping them safe. Enacting policies like this one will be critical in our efforts to end this pandemic.”

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 the current national public health 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; and

      • Apply the licensure reciprocity for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, followed by a 180-day phase out period.
  

This legislation is currently supported by Missouri Western State University, Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, and BJC HealthCare in Missouri.


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