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Spotlight on Occupational Licensing – Emerging Trends Affecting Athletic Trainers

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There are several trends forecast during the current legislation session which could impact possible new rules affecting state regulatory, occupational licensing boards and Athletic Trainers.

Worker Mobility Legislation: Consider Interstate Practice and Reciprocity Frameworks

A renewed focus on occupational licensing requirements was demonstrated in July last year with the release of Executive Order (EO) 14036, Promoting Competition in the American Economy. The objective of this EO is to facilitate a more competitive marketplace and improve consumer choices, services and prices by addressing rules that limit ability of workers to switch jobs and move between states. This directive addressed impediments to worker mobility and the resulting economic impacts. While this is a federal directive impacting such agencies, state legislatures may consider changes to occupational licensing in line with this order.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Time to Reflect and Act

Language in Biden’s EO states that "many occupational licenses are critical to increasing wages for workers and especially workers of color.” Part of this order is focused on consideration of how eligibility rules, educational requirements and other licensing criteria can limit the entry of qualified workers into a licensed field unfairly. Legislative and regulatory bodies are likely to proactively address these issues.

Repeal/Adoption of COVID-19 Modifications Affecting Occupational Licensing

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state legislatures and regulators swiftly made changes to professional and occupational licensing, as needed. Changes such as virtual licensure testing systems, postponed license expiration dates and waived license renewal fees were implemented by state licensing boards. Some of these changes may be eliminated over time, especially those which are pandemic specific in nature.

Even though some changes may be eliminated now, others adopted during the pandemic may live on permanently based on improved efficiencies and seen improvements. Telemedicine continues to be addressed at the state level, as legislators evaluate the obvious patient benefits. However, having this a permanent change leads to issues with applicable licensing rules impacted by geographical limitations. Trends in universal licensing and reciprocity could emerge as a result of this issue.

Scope-Dependent License Portability Proposals: Watch for Undercutting

Some reciprocal licensing proposals include portability requirements that compare the scope of practice authorized by an applicant's existing license in another state, instead of comparing the applicant's specific credentials (i.e., education, examination, and experience). Ideally, reciprocity rules will be appropriately tailored to allow qualified professionals to transfer licenses to new states while ensuring that those professionals are qualified to provide their services in their new state.

However, these scope-based proposals force state regulatory boards to grant reciprocal licensure to applicants merely because they hold a license in another state in a similar profession, even if the other state has more lenient requirements to obtain the "equivalent" license. Scope-focused reciprocity may endanger the public's health, safety, and welfare if unqualified or underqualified individuals are granted a license to practice. It may lead to forum shopping for those underqualified applicants. Licensing boards and stakeholders should analyze proposals that tie reciprocal licensure to the applicable scope of practice, rather than to concrete qualifications, and carefully consider whether such a regime is appropriate, considering the technical expertise required for their respective professions and occupations, or necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of citizens employing those professionals.

Find more information on these and additional related topics here.

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