Regulatory Action Center Review – April 16, 2020

Welcome to FreedomWorks Foundation’s fifth regulatory review of 2020! Our Regulatory Action Center proudly updates you with the latest regulatory actions from the swamp. This week, we bring you a special coronavirus edition, highlighting some of the government regulations that have been repealed to fight the pandemic. Check back next week for the next edition.

1) FDA Allows States to Operate Independent Virus Testing

The FDA has decided to grant states far more leeway in managing their own testing programs for COVD-19. In addition to allowing states total control over any tests manufactured and distributed within its borders, the FDA has also waived the requirement that state labs have an Emergency Use Authorization from the agency. Hopefully, this will enable states to better manage and distribute test kits in a more localised and targeted way to help manage the narrow supply chain.

2) Removal of Requirement that All Tests be Sent to a CDC Lab

In conjunction with the FDA’s deregulatory actions, the CDC has also expanded the availability of private, local labs to manage diagnostic tests. One of the major problems limiting the availability of testing was that all tests were required to go through a CDC approved lab, and those approvals were scarce. As a result of the influx of tests, the CDC has temporarily suspended these requirements, allowing state and local labs that lack these authorizations to run COVID-19 tests.

3) Allowing Medical Providers to Work in Other States

Licensing laws, though necessary in the case of medical workers, have created severe impediments to the free flow of medical workers. Most medical workers are only licensed in the state in which they practice, with some reciprocity among various coalitions of states. Fortunately the Department of Health and Human Services has decided to temporarily suspend restrictions on licensed medical personnel from practicing in other states. This will allow medical workers better respond to the virus by being able to respond wherever they are needed, regardless of licensing.

4) Expanding Telelmedicine to Out-of-State Doctors

One of the Trump administration’s top priorities in responding to the COVID-19 crisis has been to expand access to telemedicine services to ease the burden of exposure to vulnerable populations. This has been one of the most successful endeavors of the response. Choosing to capitalize on their success, DHHS has decided to also allow medical workers to practice using telemedicine services across state lines. In many border communities where state lines are barely a formality, expanding these services not only allow vulnerable populations to stay safe while receiving care, but also allow communities to continue working together.

5) Exemption from Environmental Liability Due to COVID-19

In a recent memo, the EPA announced that they would not be taking any punitive action against effectively any violation that the agency agrees COVID-19 is the cause of. Most businesses have experienced some measure of disruption, and many are short-staffed during the quarantine. As a result, violations are likely to rise simply due to uncontrollable circumstances. It is great to see the EPA taking positive action to help the economy during this unprecedented time.

6) Expanded Scope of Practice for Medical Personnel

Another fantastic deregulatory measure that should be taken to help our response to this virus is expanding the scope of practice for qualified medical workers to allow greater flexibility of operations. Currently, there are stringent regulations on what different levels of medical workers are allowed to do, limiting response. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has recognized this problem and expanded the scope of practice for nurse practitioners so that they can operate without direct doctor supervision. This allows more than qualified nurse practitioners the flexibility to provide the care that patients need when they need it.

7) Allowing Pharmacists to Help Their Patients

With hospitals and doctors offices across the country inundated with COVID-19 cases, the ability for primary care physicians to provide care to their regular patients has been severely hampered. Beyond access to direct care, this has also meant a lack of prescription medication for some. Fortunately, some places like Alabama have expanded the ability of licensed pharmacists to refill essential prescriptions at their own discretion, rather than having to wait on the doctor’s expressed authorization. Allowing pharmacists to play a greater role in our healthcare system not only eases the burden on doctors, it expands access to care for many vulnerable and rural populations that lack widespread healthcare infrastructure.

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