News Story

State Government's Obstacles To Virus Recovery

Removing them could help us get through this better

Michigan is under a state of emergency, with all schools closed, large gatherings banned and restaurants and bars down to take-out only. State lawmakers have pushed through initial funding of $25 million with more likely to come, to support efforts to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus. And at the federal level, Congress is quickly moving a package that funds free coronavirus testing and paid leave for many employees.

But there are many government-imposed obstacles in the way of fighting the virus. Here are some steps Michigan lawmakers can take to mitigate the effects of its spread.

Certificate of Need repeal

Michigan is one of the states that imposes a “certificate of need” law, which requires hospitals and other medical facilities to get special permission before building or expanding. The law requires health care providers to go through a lengthy and expensive process for new or replacement equipment and services. One study estimates that laws like this have reduced the number of hospital beds by about 10%, with minimal savings. A dozen states operate – more efficiently – without such laws, and Michigan should waive these requirements during the current emergency and reconsider them altogether when the threat subsides.

Licensing red tape

Michigan also imposes onerous restrictions, in the form of occupational licensing laws, on individuals trying to enter the medical profession. Many are justified, yet this state’s regulations nevertheless are more onerous and restrictive than those elsewhere. For example, Michigan imposes severe restrictions on the nursing and nurse practitioner professions; one expert called Michigan one of the “regulatory dirty dozen” in this area. Past legislatures have also enacted laws that deny those with past criminal offenses from working in the medical profession – even the crime in question is a low-level one. Michigan doesn’t readily recognize medical licenses from other states, even in cases of emergency. In Massachusetts and elsewhere, states are recognizing licensing laws from other states and reducing their mandates. Michigan should as well.

Expand scope-of-practice and direct primary care

On a related note, Michigan rules can make it difficult for qualified medical professionals to make use of all of their talents. While other states allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants more autonomy, Michigan limits their work through narrow scope-of-practice laws. Such restrictions have not been demonstrated to improve patient care and can, in fact, leave patients worse off. Michigan should at least relax these restrictions during this state of emergency.

Telemedicine

Michigan has made it easier to receive medical advice over the phone and through video chatting with a medical professional. But some important services are still restricted. We should take full advantage of the networks and infrastructure we have in place to combat this coronavirus, and telemedicine should be encouraged and promoted, not restricted and limited.

Licensing and permitting

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order “providing that all renewals of expiring licenses, permits, registrations and the like — including driver’s, business, and other licenses, not only occupational — would be extended to until 30 days after the state of emergency ends.” Many of Michigan’s occupational licensing laws require continuing education training and annual fees. These should be postponed or eliminated to prevent unnecessary individual contact while allowing important work to continue.

These are just a few of the major regulations that could be adjusted to help during this emergency. Other states are pursuing similar moves when it comes to many other rules, especially related to trucking, shipping and distribution. States should help citizens fight the virus without keeping unnecessary restrictions in the way.