New interstate compacts could ease healthcare worker shortages in Minnesota

Tacked in the 1,400-page controversial bill are provisions that might just improve the worker shortage healthcare industry. In a positive move, Minnesota lawmakers approved the creation of interstate compacts for the following professionals:

  1. physician assistants
  2. Occupation therapists and occupational therapist assistants
  3. audiology and speech-language pathologists
  4. physical therapists and physical therapist assistants
  5. licensed professional counselors
  6. Dentists and dental hygienists
  7. Social workers

What are interstate compacts?

Much like barbers and cosmetologists, healthcare workers who practice in Minnesota must be licensed in Minnesota. Licenses granted in Minnesota are generally not recognized in any other state and vice-versa.

So, when healthcare workers from other states move to Minnesota, they have to get a new license. And when workers from Minnesota move to other states, they must also get a new license from that state. Moreover, workers can not practice in two states at a time.

This is problematic for a couple of reasons.

For one, because licensing requirements might differ between states, workers incur significant costs when transferring licenses between states. Worse, their applications can even get denied. This puts a damper on mobility which can lead to big problems both for workers and patients.

We saw firsthand during the pandemic, for example, when due to licensing laws, healthcare professionals could not move to, or practice in states where their services were needed more urgently. State leaders, including Gov. Walz, had to suspend licensing rules to allow out-of-state healthcare workers to practice in their states.

Interstate compacts address this issue.

Going forward, affected healthcare workers who are licensed in member states (all the states that are part of the compact) can get a license to practice in Minnesota as well (either remotely or physically). Similarly, workers licensed in Minnesota could also get licensed in other member states and practice there.

By making it easier for out-of-state workers to get licensed here,

This will likely improve the mobility of healthcare workers. In turn, Minnesotans could see improved access to healthcare services.

More needs to be done

Provisions to lessen regulations were passed for other workers as well. For instance,

Registered transfer care specialists would be allowed to remove dead human bodies from a place of death, under the supervision of a licensed mortician. This measure aims to help address shortages of morticians, particularly in rural areas, who may be unavailable to respond to the scene of a crime, home, or health care facility when a person dies to remove a dead body.

Additionally, marriage and family therapists from outside the state who not looking to get licensed in Minnesota can apply for a guest license. Further, the bill repealed a law which requires

physician assistants to consult and enter into a practice agreement with a licensed physician when providing ongoing psychiatric treatment for children with emotional disturbance or adults with serious mental illness.

All of these changes will move Minnesota a few steps in the right direction. However, more can be done to lessen licensing burdens for healthcare workers across the board.

Just to give an example, in the same 1-400 page that contains language for the new compacts, lawmakers also created two new licenses for healthcare workers. One is for behavior analysts and the other one is for audio and speech-language pathology assistants. Thus, while reducing burdens for other professions, lawmakers increased burdens for other ones.

To be more effective, efforts to ease licensing burdens must be uniform across the board and cover more professions.