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To fight the Coronavirus, Gov. Walz should allow healthcare workers licensed in other states to work in Minnesota

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about how, to aid their fight against the Coronavirus, policymakers in Colorado had announced that state regulators will allow medical professionals licensed in other states to start practicing there immediately. The state plans to bring in contract nurses from out of state to help the hardest hit communities, and it will tap into students and faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Policymakers in Minnesota need to do the same thing. When Governor Tim Walz announced a state-wide stay-at-home order on March 25th, he did so in anticipation of a forecast surge in intensive care unit (ICU) admissions. If he believes this is coming, he needs to act to make sure we have the the staff and resources to cope, to the greatest extent possible.

One action Gov. Walz could take is to implement the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which would allow nurses and other healthcare workers to immediately be licensed to work in our state as long as they are licensed in their home states. This would enable us to tap a far greater pool of healthcare workers.

On March 20th, Senator Michelle Benson, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, wrote to Gov. Walz recommending he take this step. In her letter, Sen. Benson also noted Minnesota Statute § 12.42 and Article 5 of Minnesota Statute § 192.89 both permit the state to recognize a license issued to a professional by another state in a time of declared emergency. To date, Gov. Walz has not responded.

As in the cases of tests, facemasks, and even hospital beds, the Coronavirus is showing us that regulations ostensibly intended to protect public health are revealed, in a genuine health emergency, to be threats to it. Minnesota requires that its healthcare workers be licensed so that patients don’t fall victim to untrained quacks. But does that require that only our state can license them? Do we think that other states are so slipshod in their licensing practices that they are rife with unsafe practitioners who would pose a threat to Minnesotans?

Of course not. Gov. Walz should implement the Emergency Management Assistance Compact to help us fight the Coronavirus, but even when this crisis passes we should allow nurses and other healthcare workers to work in our state as long as they are licensed in their home states.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

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