MASSACHUSETTS HAS long been recognized as a global leader in health care, hospitals, education, and innovation. We wear this label proudly but must remain committed to continuous improvement and investment in the healthcare infrastructure that makes our Commonwealth remarkable. The reality is that not all communities and residents in Massachusetts can easily access the quality care that they deserve and that our state is capable of providing.
Communities throughout the state – particularly in rural regions – are experiencing a concerning shortage of medical professionals, likely attributed to the strain on providers during the pandemic, retiring physicians, and challenges recruiting qualified physicians. Fortunately, there is an accessible solution within our reach easily accessible solution right in our reach – the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. We filed H.2256, An Act authorizing Massachusetts entry into the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, to accomplish just that.
The purpose of the Compact is to enable qualified doctors from IMLC participating states to practice across state lines, without having to deal with costly, time-consuming, and redundant obstacles. Currently active in 39 states, the compact uses stringent licensing standards and affirms that the practice of medicine occurs where the patient is located at the time of the physician-patient encounter. This means that any physician hoping to practice in Massachusetts, who meets our world-class standards, can undergo an expedited, more affordable process and get to work sooner.
The Compact benefits member states by helping licensing boards become self-funded, through application fees rather than through tax dollars alone, and helps local hospitals fill voids in their workforce. The economic impact of Compact entry is significant. Member states maintain sovereignty by enhancing the capacity of licensing boards via new funding streams and retaining revenue generated from application fees. Based on data from states with a similar number of physicians to Massachusetts including Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan, the Commonwealth could benefit from about $1.2 million in additional revenue annually through Compact membership.
Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine have all passed legislation authorizing entry into the Compact. If Massachusetts follows suit, our residents who live in proximity to state boundaries will experience a drastic increase in viable care options.
A recent op-ed in the Boston Globe discussed efforts to improve physician licensure for international doctors. Imagine if we worked on that while simultaneously creating pathways for the talented, qualified pool of physicians we have right here in the States. There is no doubt that the current weaknesses in our health care system could be strengthened, and our underserved communities could access an abundance of new resources.
The challenges that we face require innovative solutions based on strategies that are proven to be effective. Let’s create another incentive for people to make Massachusetts their home by improving physician portability, giving our state an economic boost, and guaranteeing quality healthcare and patient care from the Berkshires to Belchertown to Boston to Barnstable.
Smitty Pignatelli is a Democratic state representative from Lenox. Aaron Saunders is a Democratic state representative from Belchertown.