THUNE: Advancing healthcare through medical licensure portabilityUnless a physician is licensed to practice medicine in the state where the patient resides, a patient cannot be seen by that physician.
By: John Thune , U.S. Senator
In December of 2012, my wife Kimberley, along with Sen. Tim Johnson’s wife Barb, wrote an op-ed about the frustrations for many military spouses in obtaining a license or certification for their career as they move across state lines. Their article, along with the hard work of many throughout the state, including Gov. Daugaard, prompted the state Legislature to unanimously pass a bill this year that provides expedited consideration of a license held by a spouse of a military member stationed in South Dakota.
While this bill is an important step forward to ensure we provide flexibility for our military spouses in South Dakota in many career fields, licensure portability is also particularly important for the advancement of telehealth technology. Over the last several years, telehealth has revolutionized patient care by creating a way for patients to see specialists without the burden of travel.
However, unless a physician is licensed to practice medicine in the state where the patient resides, a patient cannot be seen by that physician. In some states, it can take months for licensing boards to approve applications, which can delay patient care in instances where a patient would like to be seen by a specialist that is not currently licensed in South Dakota or a South Dakota physician would like to see a patient located in another state.
Licensing requirements serve an important function in ensuring public safety and competency in a profession. State level licensure provides control and flexibility of standards to best meet the needs of the individual state while still ensuring patient safety. Without state control of medical licensures, the South Dakota legislature could not have acted to provide flexibility for our military spouses. However, currently there is not a system that would allow states to retain control of medical licensure while still allowing physicians portability of their license outside of South Dakota.
On March 13, 2013, I led a bipartisan group of Senators in sending a letter to the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). The letter encourages FSMB to develop a comprehensive system that allows states to retain control of medical licensure and ensure the safety of patients, while also allowing physicians portability of their license to practice outside their state. The letter, sent along with Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., encourages FSMB to leverage grants received by the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a proposal that satisfies the variety of complex licensure portability issues.
Multi-state medical licensure is a critical component of advancing the use of telehealth technology that can result in lower health care costs and improved care. I look forward to working together to find a solution that will work in South Dakota and across the country to address this complex and important issue.