New bill would allow out-of-state physicians to provide telehealth services in Minnesota

Recently a bill was introduced in the Senate that aims to expand telehealth services in Minnesota. The bill, if approved, will allow a physician not licensed in Minnesota to provide telehealth services in Minnesota if the following conditions are met:

(1) the physician is licensed without restriction to practice medicine in the state from
which the physician provides telehealth services;

(2) the physician has not had a license to practice medicine revoked or restricted in any
state or jurisdiction;

(3) the physician does not open an office in this state, does not meet with patients in this
state, and does not receive calls in this state from patients; and

(4) the physician annually registers with the board, on a form provided by the board.

The pandemic has exposed the irrationalities of some licensing requirements

The coronavirus pandemic has been very telling on the irrationalities of some licensing. For instance, we saw Minnesota loosen licensing restrictions in order to ensure residents have access to health care services. But as I wrote before, these changes beg the question of why these laws exist in the first place.

According to Minnesota statutes 2019, section 12.42, during a declared emergency, a person who holds a certificate, license or permit from another state or the District of Columbia can operate as if licensed by the state of Minnesota subject to some limitations. Therefore, to meet the needs of Minnesotan patients, out of state qualifying practitioners will be allowed to aid patients in the state during this emergency period.

But this begs the questions of why these laws exist in the first place. As illustrated, there is little worry about qualifications when these laws are suspended. This is because qualified doctors possess the necessary skills to treat patients regardless of whether they are licensed by the state of Minnesota or any other state. If mental health providers can effectively provide telehealth services during this emergency period, there is no good reason that they should not be able to do so in a non-pandemic time.

There are many benefits to expanding telehealth services. In rural Minnesota, especially, telehealth could potentially mitigate the shortage of healthcare access. During the pandemic, telehealth has proven as a very useful and convenient tool to connect with patients. And as we have argued for, it is great that lawmakers are taking a more logical approach to licensing healthcare workers.