Patient demand created by the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed legislators to pass laws recognizing the professional licenses of out of state health care professionals.
On June 6, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed into law House Bill 2046, considered one of the most expansive licensing reciprocity measures in the nation. The legislation was based on model legislation put forth by the American Legislative Council (ALEC). The “Freedom to Travel and Work Act” outlines criteria professionals must meet to set up shop within a state’s borders. Among several requirements, the person must hold a current and valid occupational license for at least one year, be in good standing, and pay all fees.
Bill sponsor Missouri State Representative Derek Grier (R-Chesterfield) says universal licensing recognition is something Missouri legislators have been discussing for some time.
“It’s going to set Missouri as the number one reformer in the entire country when it comes to occupational licensing recognition,” Grier said June 22 on The Heartland Daily Podcast. “It takes Arizona’s law and goes one step further and allows the recognition for non-residents for Missouri as well because in Missouri, our two economic engines, St. Louis and Kansas City are both on borders, so we have a lot of jobs in those cities where we can pull workers now from outside of the state.”
Acknowledging Experience Across State Lines
Missouri could set the stage for other states to jump on the reciprocity wagon, says Michael Slabinski, legislative director at ALEC.
“It can be very difficult for people like teachers, barbers, and health care workers to move across state lines, either if they’re moving to a new state or if they live on a border town and want to go across the border line and cut hair or practice their profession,” Slabinski said. “They have to reapply for a license and go through the whole process again in the state they want to practice in.”
States can reform licensing in one of two ways, reviewing current laws or recognizing licenses in other states, Slabinski says.
“It’s argued at ALEC that if you’re going to have an occupational license, it should be to protect the health and safety of the citizens of that state,” Slabinski said. “It shouldn’t be to ensure that there’s a minimum quality standard. It’s not the government’s job to protect people from bad haircuts.”
States have begun to consider universal recognition licenses, at least for military spouses. Slabinski says licensing barriers should be removed for all workers.
“One of the most important things in our model is recognizing work experience,” Slabinski said. “Not all states license the same occupation. If you’re coming from a state that didn’t license an occupation but you have a lot of experience…then you can apply that experience in a new state that you’re moving to or a new state you’d like to work in.”
A Domino Effect
Iowa and Mississippi are considering bills that emphasize work experience, which is important if workers come from a state that doesn’t license a particular occupation, according to Slabinski.
“That’s where it seems a lot of these policies are going,” Slabinski said.
Grier says it is important for reformers to recognize pushback from competitors.
“What I did to overcome that opposition was early on, I created a coalition,” Grier said. The bill received bipartisan support and passed unanimously in the state senate.
Ashley Bateman (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.