The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that government licensing of health professionals blocks access to care. Licensing gives state politicians the final word on allowable categories of clinicians, the education and training requirements for each category, and the range of services each category of clinician may perform. It reduces access to health services by increasing prices and reducing the supply of clinicians who can provide those services. It harms health professionals by preventing them from providing services they are competent to provide and by preventing capable individuals from entering or rising within health professions. By suspending such rules to improve access to care for COVID-19 patients, states have acknowledged that licensing prevents clinicians from providing services they are competent to provide.
A better solution than direct government licensing is a system in which states recognize third‐party organizations that certify the competence of health professionals. In such a system, accredited educational institutions or certificate‐issuing organizations would define clinician categories, determine scopes of practice for each category, and certify the training or skills of individual clinicians. Third‐party certification would allow innovative educational and certification programs, nontraditional career paths, incremental expansion of clinician skills and scopes of practice, and the creation of new categories of health care professionals. The result would be better career opportunities for clinicians and greater access to care for patients. In this forum, experts will explore this and other reform ideas.