Opinion: Workforce issue rightly in focus in Olympia

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center explains why lawmakers should take more opportunities to lessen state licensing restrictions that are harmful to workers and patients.
Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center explains why lawmakers should take more opportunities to lessen state licensing restrictions that are harmful to workers and patients.

SB 5815, to join a licensure compact for physician assistants, passed the Senate, moves to House

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

Washington state could be among the first seven states to join a licensure compact for physician assistants, allowing such caregivers to practice across state lines. Increased worker mobility brings the huge added benefit of increasing patients’ access to health care services. 

Elizabeth Hovde, Washington Policy Center
Elizabeth Hovde, Washington Policy Center

With coming shortages of medical workers expected in the Evergreen state and elsewhere, lawmakers should be looking into joining all the compacts they can. Research shows quality does not suffer when qualified workers are allowed multistate licensure and don’t need to go through the regulatory hurdles of becoming licensed state-by-state. Quality assurance measures for workers are often similar across the country.

Right now, bureaucracy is getting in the way of allowing various workers, including needed caregivers, to work in the state.

Last year, this problem was tackled relating to nurse licensure. Acceptance of joining the Nurse Licensure Compact and good early results from doing so have given good legislative energy to Senate Bill 5815, a bill allowing us to join a PA Licensure Compact. The legislative proposal was passed by the Senate unanimously on Jan. 24. It now awaits action in the House before the state can seek membership into the compact, which would allow these caregivers to move their qualifications and skills across state lines with ease, not delayed by needing single-state licensure in Washington state. 

Universal licensure should be sought

Lawmakers should consider blanket or universal-license recognition (model legislation does exist), rather than piecemealing this issue for workers and state residents. For now, SB 5815 should see swift passage in the House, getting us closer to common sense on licensing issues.  

It’s time to stop being such control freaks about letting qualified professionals work in Washington state, helping give residents and patients more access to needed services. 

In 2019, funded with support from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federation of State Medical Boards, the American Academy of Physician Associates, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and the Council of State Governments created an initiative to develop an interstate compact for physician assistants. This working group produced and approved the final version of the compact in 2023.

Washington state is one of sixteen with legislation filed to consider becoming a part of the compact. The compact needs just seven states on board to become operational. According to a map on the PA Licensure Compact website, three states already have enacted the legislation necessary to be members.

Lawmakers should take more opportunities to lessen state licensing restrictions that are harmful to workers and patients.

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.


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