State Licensing and Anti-Competitive Bureaucracy

February 22, 2016

At a time when telemedicine and telehealth are poised for rapid expansion, many state medical boards are doubling down on what appears to be their true purpose: enacting and enforcing anti-competitive measures to protect those already licensed in the jurisdiction.

Medical boards, like all professional licensing boards, are bureaucratic barriers to open competition. Sure, they justify their existence as protection of the public, but laws governing consumer protection don’t necessarily require state licensure as opposed to state registration as opposed to the even lesser deemed submission to state discipline.

The problem with bureaucracies is that once created, they never want to destroy themselves. Somehow, protecting the jobs, and the power, of petty politicians outweighs the harm they cause to society. Yes, the harm they cause by way of higher prices and a restricted supply of regulated professionals.

In the end, because the force of the future can’t be stopped, that protection simply means that those within the protected class will be disrupted from outside of it as opposed to from within.

Take a look, for instance, at what is going on in states like California. While the medical board is going about its job of protecting in-state physicians, the rest of the bureaucracy wakes up to the fact that there is a physician shortage. Instead of the obvious solution, which is fast tracking the ability to practice across state lines, the end result is the creation of other classes of licensed professionals such as naturopathic physicians and the expansion of the scope of practice of existing nonphysician healthcare providers.

It’s time to stop the B.S. of medical boards, state bars, and other relics of the past and to acknowledge what they are: Officially endorsed engines of anticompetitive behavior.

I’m not saying that we need to do away with consumer protection. I’m not saying that we need to do away with disciplining bad professionals. I am saying that we need to put those police powers in a “box” by themselves and drop the rest of the shenanigans that no longer pass the laugh test.

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