Half of States Now Belong to Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

Ken Terry

January 10, 2019

Michigan has become the 25th state to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which allows physicians to more easily be licensed in multiple states. The compact, which was finalized in September 2014 and became effective in April 2017, also includes the District of Columbia and Guam.

"The expansion of the compact to half of all U.S. states is an incredible achievement and testament to state medical boards' efforts to innovate and improve license portability," said Humayun Chaudhry, DO, president and CEO of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), which spearheaded the agreement, in a news release. "We welcome Michigan into the compact and are pleased that Michiganders will benefit from having increased access to medical care."

Besides Michigan, the states that have entered the compact include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The initiative is also being considered by legislators in Kentucky, New Mexico, and South Carolina.

To date, 4511 medical licenses have been issued and 2400 applications processed through the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission (IMLCC), according to the FSMB.

Physicians in compact states can be licensed in another participating state by meeting the compact's eligibility requirements and having their home state attest to their qualifications. They don't have to fill out a formal application or send records to the other state.

By making it simpler to obtain multiple licenses, the compact can benefit locum tenens doctors, physicians who practice in areas that cross state lines, and doctors who provide telemedicine services to patients in other states. Rural areas with few physicians also stand to benefit, partly through increased access to telemedicine consults.

In Michigan, for example, the bills that allowed the state to join the compact were supported by, among others, Ascension Michigan, Trinity Health, and the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. Sean Gehle, chief advocacy officer for Ascension Michigan, part of the Ascension hospital network, said in the news release, "We believe that not only will the compact facilitate increased access to healthcare for patients in underserved areas of our state, allowing them to more easily connect to medical experts through the use of telemedicine, but also provide for a more streamlined and expeditious process for recruitment of physicians to these same underserved areas."

The 2017 launch of the compact had to be delayed for a few months because the FBI would not allow some states to share the FBI's criminal background data on doctors with the IMLCC, which the bureau regarded as a private entity. As reported by Medscape Medical News, Minnesota, Montana, and Nevada — all of which received warning letters from the FBI — passed special legislation to address the FBI's concern.

In the compact's 5 years of existence, it has gained momentum across the country. When the draft compact was released in 2014, just three state medical boards — in Texas, Oklahoma, and Washington — approved it in principle. By 2015, enabling legislation had been passed in seven states, the minimum number required for the compact to go into effect. The number of participating states swelled to 18 in 2017, and now half of all US states, the District of Columbia, and Guam are in the compact.

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