How complex medical licensing laws limit health care options for Minnesotans

According to MinnPost,

Fabio Azeredo earned a Ph.D. in psychology and practiced as a licensed supervising psychologist in Brazil for 29 years. Since moving to Minnesota two years ago, he has had to work as a pre-licensed psychotherapist under supervision. 

Suzana Duarte Santos Mallard also has a Ph.D. in psycho-sociology and a master’s in clinical psychology and has worked in private practice in Brazil since 2005. Since moving to Minnesota five years ago, she has been unable to earn a license to practice psychology. She now works as a pre-licensed therapist at a Twin Cities mental health clinic. 

In her native Guatemala, Ileana Ortiz de Leon was a psychologist in private practice for many years. To continue her mental health career after moving to Minnesota, she has chosen to reconfigure her professional credentials, becoming a licensed professional clinical counselor, or LPCC, and taking her goal of a private psychology practice off the table. 

Why is this the case?

Because of Minnesota’s complex licensing requirements, these three internationally trained mental health professionals say they haven’t been able to practice at a level equal to their education and experience since moving to the state. Other internationally trained mental health professionals face similar struggles in Minnesota. At the same time, Minnesota is struggling with a significant mental health workforce shortage, particularly among practitioners of color

But this is not specifically restricted to immigrants. Even health care practitioners licensed outside of the state cannot provide services to Minnesotans unless they get licensed in the state. During the pandemic, these rules were suspended, making it legal for health care providers from outside the state to service Minnesotans. Nothing changed about these providers. They did not become more skilled overnight, yet because a need arose, Gov. Walz waived existing restrictions, proving that these rules were arbitrary and unnecessary.

Yet the end of the pandemic period meant going back to the status quo, whereby qualified health care practitioners can no longer provide services to Minnesotans just because they got their license somewhere out of the state.

Complex licensing laws shortchange Minnesotans

As MinnPost explains,

For their part, executive directors of state licensing boards say that their role is to ensure that mental health professionals practicing in Minnesota meet standards of care set by the state Legislature. This means that credentials earned in other countries may not be enough to meet those standards and that international applicants will need to have their credentials evaluated and might have to earn additional degrees or credits to gain licensure. 

Certainly, the practice of medicine may vary across countries, but there are more cost-effective ways of integrating international credentials into the Minnesota health care system than what is currently available. In Canada, for example,

Several provinces grant licenses to experienced immigrant physicians who have completed postgraduate training residencies in 29 approved foreign jurisdictions without them having to repeat postgraduate training in Canada. Instead, they are simply required to pass a “practice readiness assessment,” a relatively short (usually a few months) process involving supervision by a licensed practitioner who must clear them as competent.

As it currently stands, qualified individuals from outside the state are limited from using their skills and experience to best provide services to Minnesotans — denying them lucrative job opportunities, and at the same time limiting their contribution to the state’s economy. Minnesotans, on the other hand, face limited options when accessing health care services.

All in all, when qualified individuals cannot provide services due to some arbitrary laws, everyone is shortchanged.