WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), on Tuesday introduced legislation that allows any health care practitioner or professional in good standing with a valid practitioners’ license to render services—including telehealth—anywhere for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, health care professionals must maintain licenses in each state in which they render services. While most states have expanded licensing rules and reciprocity, their actions have been varied, inconsistent, and time-limited, which has created licensing barriers to a comprehensive COVID-19 response. The Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment (TREAT) Act would provide temporary licensing reciprocity for all practitioners or professionals, including those who treat both physical and mental health conditions, in all states for all types of services (in-person and telehealth) during the COVID-19 response and for future national emergencies.

“COVID-19 has hammered our already fragile health care system, and the last thing our frontline workers need is more bureaucratic red tape. We should be doing everything in our power to make sure any health care provider, in good standing and with a valid license to practice medicine, can provide services in any location throughout the pandemic,” said Murphy. “That’s why we are introducing the TREAT Act, which provides a temporary uniform licensing standard so health care workers can help those in need, including through telehealth, regardless of the patient’s physical location. With over 150,000 Americans dead and millions more infected, we must be all hands on deck to contain COVID-19.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for our health care system, like reaching patients who are advised to avoid clinics and hospitals, allowing students to continue care when they’re away from campuses, or speeding reinforcements to areas with a high number of cases,” said Blunt. “The TREAT Act responds to those challenges by increasing flexibility for providers to care for patients wherever they are. The bill maintains all the safeguards patients should expect, while eliminating bureaucratic hurdles that impede access to care. It’s the right approach to make sure we keep people connected with their providers and allow frontline workers to lend support in areas where they’re needed most.” 

The TREAT Act would:

  • Enable health care professionals licensed in good standing to care for patients (whether in-person or through telehealth visits) from any state during this national emergency without jeopardizing their state licensure or facing potential penalties for unauthorized practice of medicine;
  • Require the health care professional to obtain oral or written acknowledgment of services;
  • Require health care professionals who use this authority to notify a state or local licensing board within 30 days of first practicing in a state other than where licensed or certified;
  • Preclude any service that is otherwise prohibited by a state where a patient is located and require adherence to specified prescribing requirements of the state;
  • Allow authority for a state where a health care professional has practiced under this reciprocity measure to pursue investigations and disciplinary actions, including the ability to exclude a clinician from practicing in the state under the Act;
  • Not include health care professionals otherwise licensed under a compact agreement or licensed in the state where the patient resides;
  • Apply the licensure reciprocity for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, with a 180-day phase out; and
  • Allow the HHS Secretary to use this authority for a future national emergency when a declaration has been made under the Public Health Service Act and either the National Emergencies Act or for at least 12 states under the Stafford Act.

This legislation is currently supported by: Active Minds, American College Health Association, American College of Physicians, American Council on Education, American Hospital Association, American Medical Group Association, Ascension Health, Association of American Medical Colleges, Association of American Universities, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, BJC HealthCare, Billings Clinic, Bon Secours Mercy Health, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, Duke University Health System, Emory University, Federation of American Hospitals, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Maryland Hospital Association, Massachusetts General Hospital, Mayo Clinic, MedChi- The Maryland State Medical Society, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Moffitt Cancer Center, Mount Sinai Health System, National Association of Behavioral Health Care, New York University, Providence St. Joseph Health, Saint Louis University, Stanford University, The Johns Hopkins University, The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, University of Chicago Medical Center, University of Iowa Health Care, University of Pennsylvania Health System, University of Michigan Health System, University of Michigan Medical School, UW Health (Wisconsin), Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Washington State Hospital Association, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale University.