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Earlier today, Americans for Prosperity released guidance urging states to take swift and targeted action to address the legitimate public safety challenges associated with the spread of the novel coronavirus. Based on the experiences of other countries, access to critical health care services is one of the most important needs that states should be working to address.

While our hospitals are not currently experiencing a surge of new patients and other healthcare resources are capable of meeting today’s needs, Governor Reynolds’ executive order will position Iowa well if an outbreak is to take place. The key pieces of that executive order as it relates to preparing for expanded access include:

  • Suspending Iowa’s Certificate of Need laws for expanded capacity. Without this move, healthcare providers would need to go through an extensive application process and receive state approval before adding beds and other equipment which could be necessary if patient numbers surge.
  • Suspending regulations on the provision of telehealth and telemedicine. This will allow medical professionals to provide services to a larger number of patients while also limiting the potential spread of the virus which could result from traditional, in-person office visits.
  • Temporarily permitting the practice of medical professionals with a lapsed or inactive license. Expanded bed counts and technology won’t matter if we don’t have the medical professionals in place to serve Iowans in the moment of need. This action will open the door to providers that have recently retired or have simply moved away from the care that they’ve been trained to provide, which could be critical as we stretch the bandwidth of our healthcare system.

Separate from today’s order by Governor Reynolds, the legislature has also taken actions which could prove to be critically important. Specifically, both chambers passed SF 2357, with unanimous support, to expand scope of practice for nurses and physicians assistants. By allowing these individuals to practice to the full extent of their training, we allow hospitals to make important decisions about how best to allocate all of the resources at their disposal.

There is still a great level of uncertainty around COVID-19, but AFP-Iowa is encouraged by some of the moves our elected officials are taking to ensure greater levels of access to care. These decisions position us well to weather this storm.