Medical licensing and related healthcare laws may soon be radically altered in the Lone Star State under a measure coursing its way through the legislature. Advocates claim it is a simple bill to ease interstate physician licensure while maintaining state sovereignty over the licensing process. However, conservatives are highly concerned about the consequences of the new proposal.
In September 2014, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) released model legislation for the creation of an Interstate Medical Licensing Compact. The stated intent of the legislation is to streamline the licensing process for physicians who wish to apply for medical licenses in multiple states.
Such legislation is currently being carried in both the Texas House and Senate, with State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Simonton) and State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) sponsoring, HB 661 / SB 190, respectively.
Texas Right to Life notes that the “portability of a medical license has the potential to open an avenue for abortionists to circumvent Pro-Life laws enacted by our state legislature and Pro-Life agency rules.”
An ally of the organization also came out in direct opposition to the measure.
“If HB 661/ SB 190 passes, then out-of-state abortionists will have the power to obtain the equivalent of interstate medical licenses, ignoring good Texas Pro-Life laws,” they said. “Texas would not have the ability to have laws contrary to the Commission’s regulations, and disputes would be handled by the federal D.C. court, manned by Obama-appointed judges.”
A conservative healthcare group, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), is also opposing the legislation.
“The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, despite representations to the contrary, will have the effect of undermining state sovereignty, as well as increasing the power of a private bureaucratic organization to intervene in, define, and control the practice of medicine,” wrote Jeremy Snavely, business manager for AAPS.
Despite calls for caution, the Public Health Committee of the Texas House voted to recommend the passage of the legislation by a 10-1 vote. Alone in dissent was State Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington).
“There are already huge problems with the Texas Medical Board (TMB), which has some legislative oversight. Outsourcing licensing to an out of state commission would cause even bigger problems,” said Zedler.
Zedler argues that the TMB itself is in desperate need of reform, that current procedures inflict bureaucratic headaches on innocent doctors all while failing to stop egregious violators the regulations are intended to identify. Instead of creating a new, complex rule-making body that would require that Texas comply with directives it does not support, Zedler says the state should examine a more limited sense reform—looking instead to reciprocity agreements with states that have similar licensing regulations. This practice is already in effect for some specialties. Alternatively, lawmakers could look to agreements that do not contain a supremacy clause; a similar measure has already been adopted for nurses.
Zedler says there’s merit in streamlining the the licensure process. Doctors wait more than six months in the Lone Star State while it takes less than half that in states such as Virginia, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Maine.
Lawmakers should consider valid concerns before rushing to implement a new bureaucracy—even if it is one aimed at streamlining other processes. Texas voters have already supported more stringent licensing criteria to prevent bad actors from practicing medicine in the state. Outsourcing the control of state medical laws would most certainly surrender sovereignty and subject the future of those regulations to forces outside the control of our state’s residents and the politicians elected to represent them.