Potential licensing reforms in light of COVID-19

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In 2020, COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm healthcare capacity, forcing policymakers to enact temporary waivers of licensing restrictions. Research finds that occupational licensing reduces the supply of professionals in a regulated field, and reduces geographic mobility, contributing to the primary care professional shortage. Scope of practice laws reduce the flexibility of practitioners, exacerbating these shortages. Given the fact that policymakers and healthcare professionals recognized the shortcomings to our current licensing regime during the COVID-19 pandemic, we should consider alternatives that still ensure quality care for patients without restricting access and reducing flexibility. We rank six alternatives currently being considered to address the primary care shortage from most to least effective. While efforts to expand the supply of physicians or NPs and PAs would be the most effective reforms to expand access to primary care, others that better utilize our existing supply of healthcare professionals are worth considering.

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