While Mississippi’s Board of Medical Licensure largely walked back a previous decision to allow patients to use services provided by out-of-state physicians via telemedicine, other states such as Michigan and West Virginia are removing regulatory restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has issued two executive orders. The first suspended the state’s certificate of need program and removed some restrictions on medical licenses and nursing assistants. The second order issued on March 29 was more thorough, with several components:
- It allows nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and licensed practical nurse to treat COVID-19 patients without physician supervision.
- The order also allows medical students, physician assistants and emergency medical technicians to become licensed or certified to act as respiratory therapists.
- It also allows licensed medical personnel who don’t have a Michigan license to treat COVID-19 patients in Michigan.
- Pharmaceutical drug distributers, who are licensed in other states, can distribute Corona virus-related medications in the state.
On a similar note, West Virginia’s Republican Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order on March 19 that suspended the state’s regulations in several areas:
- Allowed medical providers with expired licenses (except for those with pending complaints, investigations or other pending disciplinary procedures) to practice during the state of emergency.
- Removed the requirement for telemedicine providers to be licensed in West Virginia, as long as they are licensed in another state.
- Halted the requirement that telemedicine be performed by video only.
- Temporarily halted the requirement that medical licenses are valid for two years and educational permits for one year.
- Halted the requirements for continuing education requirement for physicians.
Mississippi has been a mixed bag. The state’s Board of Nursing issued a proclamation that allowed out-of-state nurse practitioners to use telemedicine to treat Mississippi patients without having a state license. The practitioner only needs a license in another state. The proclamation also allows practitioners licensed outside the state to complete a waiver form to practice in Mississippi.
The Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure issued an amended proclamation last week that limited telemedicine for out-of-state physicians not licensed to practice in Mississippi to only those who have an existing doctor-patient relationship rather than any licensed physician.
On March 15, the board issued a proclamation that said it would not enforce regulations governing out-of-state physicians using telemedicine to treat patients in the state in response to an emergency declaration by Gov. Tate Reeves that urged a reduction of regulations due to the spread of the coronavirus.
The proclamation would also have the board not enforcing its rules requiring physicians to examine patients prior to prescribing medication, including controlled substances, to encourage the use of telemedicine. That part of the proclamation is still in effect.
Under existing regulations, a physician using telemedicine to treat patients must be licensed to practice in Mississippi.
All three states are part of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which has 26 states that have joined together to streamline their normal licensing process for licensed physicians. This provides physicians moving from one compact-participating state to another the ability to get a license in their new state within days rather than weeks or even months.