How State Think Tanks Fought Covid with Health Care Reform

How State Think Tanks Fought Covid with Health Care Reform

Jul 27, 2021 Kathleen O’Hearn

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Americans needed access to quality health care more than ever before - and fast.

As the weeks went by and infection rates spiked with the new virus, it was clear that our current health care systems couldn’t handle the capacity. States sprang into action to make it as easy as possible to get care, lifting many government barriers in the process.

In 2020, at least 40 states passed policies that enabled our health care system to respond and fight the coronavirus by removing restrictions and empowering local medical communities. These reforms removed certificate-of-need laws that restricted access to much-needed medical equipment, enabled nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat patients, allowed Americans to expand their use of telemedicine and removed licensing restrictions so doctors could practice across state lines.

These temporary reforms helped people get the care they need in crisis. But good reforms in crisis are often good reforms all the time.

A year and one state legislative season later, several states made these efforts permanent in the name of reducing cost, increasing access and providing patients a better experience. 

The highlights:

  • 20 states passed legislation supporting expanding and deregulating telemedicine, including a very expansive bill in Arizona thanks to the vision set by the Goldwater Institute.
  • Several states including Utah, Montana, South Carolina and Ohio passed expansive scope of practice reform laws thanks to the diligence of Libertas Institute in Utah, Frontier Institute in Montana, Palmetto Promise Institute in South Carolina and The Buckeye Institute in Ohio.
  • Tennessee and Montana rolled back certificate-of-need laws in their state thanks to the work of the Beacon Center of Tennessee and the Frontier Institute in Montana.

To see a breakdown of each state and the actions they took to create better health care for their citizens, see this article on SPN.org.

Kathleen O’Hearn is State Policy Network’s Vice President of Policy Advancement.