Interstate Licensing Plan Now Has Enough States to Work

Ken Terry

May 21, 2015

The number is up for the interstate compact of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). On Tuesday, Alabama officially became the seventh state to join the FSMB, which was the number needed to set in motion the compact, an agreement designed to make it easier for physicians to be licensed in multiple states.

Minnesota also joined on Tuesday, according to Modern Healthcare, after Alabama did. The two states now join six others, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming, in the compact.

The signing of the Alabama legislation by Gov. Robert Bentley triggered the formation of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission. This commission will consist of physicians, administrators, and members of the public who have been appointed to medical boards in the participating states. It will meet later this year to discuss the management and administration of the compact, according to the FSMB.

Since the compact was finalized last September, legislators have introduced the model bill in nearly 20 states, the FSMB said. So it is possible that more states will approve it by the time the commission meets.

Under the compact, physicians who wish to practice in more than one state can be licensed in additional states without having to fill out a formal application or provide another set of records to each state medical board. If physicians meet the eligibility requirements spelled out in the compact, they can have the medical board in their "principal state" attest to their qualifications, and other states can license them. However, they must still pay the application fees set by the medical boards.

This process is expected to be useful to physicians in several circumstances. It can help physicians who practice in metropolitan areas that straddle state lines. Doctors who practice telemedicine across state lines can also benefit. So can locum tenens physicians who frequently move from state to state.

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has said that although the interstate compact is a step in the right direction, it doesn't go far enough. The ATA would like every state medical board to honor medical licensure in every other state.

But the FSMB and the American Medical Association (AMA) support the compact because it enables state medical boards to retain control over the licensure and disciplining of physicians who practice within their jurisdictions.

"State-based licensure is an important tenet of accountability, ensuring that physicians are qualified through the review of their education, training, character, and professional and disciplinary histories," said AMA President Robert Wah, MD, when the FSBM adopted the interstate compact.

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