The purpose of healthcare policy during a health crisis, such as the current coronavirus outbreak, is to maximize existing resources to provide high-quality healthcare to as many people as possible.
What does this mean? It means we must be guided by two priorities during the current emergency:
- Increasing the Supply of Healthcare
- Increasing Access to Healthcare
These two priorities, however, should be achieved in a manner that honors our heritage of constitutional government. The question for policymakers thus becomes how to attain these goals while also:
- Respecting Individual Freedom and Responsibility
- Limiting Damage to the Free Market and the Economy
No doubt, various methods can be employed to increase healthcare supply and access. The healthcare economy, for instance, could be nationalized, with the federal and state governments commandeering factories and forcing them to make face masks and respirators. Doctors and nurses could also be conscripted and made to work in localities with the most need.
Such draconian measures should only be employed as a last resort. It is our task to determine whether supply-side, market reforms can meet the current need in a way that maximizes freedom and strengthens the free market. In fact, we are already experiencing the benefits of such an approach. Consider the following:
- Millions more N95 face masks will soon be available after Congress passed a law overriding Food & Drug Administration (FDA) red tape that has been hampering supply.
- Following South Korea’s own experience, the FDA has lifted regulations holding back the supply of testing kits and accessibility.
- Congress has passed legislation waiving restrictions on telemed for Medicare insurance beneficiaries.
Closer to home, Gov. Tate Reeves is pursuing a similar path by encouraging health care providers to consider how regulatory requirements are limiting healthcare access.
- Accordingly, the State Board of Medical Licensure recently suspended a rule that has been suppressing access to telemedicine. Of particular note is allowing physicians licensed in another state to use telemed to treat Mississippi patients.
- Likewise, the State Board of Nursing is allowing APRNs – Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, which include nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and others – to prescribe medications without a prior face-to-face examination. In addition, APRNs that do not hold a Mississippi license may treat Mississippi residents via telemed. Nurses (RNs or LPNs) licensed in another state may also obtain a waiver to practice in Mississippi during the current emergency. It does not appear, however, that the State Board of Medical Licensure has formalized an identical waiver, beyond what is already permissible under temporary licensure guidelines.
- As with Medicare, the state Division of Medicaid is also employing additional telemed options for patients with Medicaid and CHIP insurance.
Clearly, much more needs to be done to cut red tape so that we may more effectively respond to the coronavirus.
Part II of this report will look at additional healthcare reforms that would save lives and increase access during the current emergency.