Why Hawaii should join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

One-fourth of all licensed workers in the U.S. work in healthcare.
In light of Hawaii’s shortages of healthcare professionals, restrictions on healthcare workers who already hold licenses in other U.S. states seem redundant and self-defeating.

There is little justification for the burdensome, costly, and redundant licensing processes that many states impose on qualified, licensed, out-of-state applicants.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, “Options to Enhance Occupational License Portability”

And Hawaii has a doctor shortage

According to the most recent report from the Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment Project, the state is currently short by approximately 776 full-time equivalent physicians.

While the greatest area of need is primary care physicians, the lack of specialists — especially in rural areas — is also severe.

While the greatest area of need is primary care physicians, the lack of specialists — especially in rural areas — is also severe.

That shortage does not apply to only doctors. Across the state, and especially in rural areas, Hawaii is facing shortages of experienced health professionals, from primary care providers to nurses, specialists and staff.

Fixing the problem requires a multipronged strategy that will address everything from Hawaii’s high cost of living to the state’s regulatory scheme for healthcare facilities. Perhaps most important, however, is the need to reform licensing regulations for healthcare professionals.

“Licensing is associated with restricted labor supply ... and no measurable effect on output quality.”
Sean Nicholson and Carol Propper, “Chapter Fourteen — Medical Workforce,” “Handbook of Health Economics,” Vol. 2, Elsevier, B.V., 2012, p. 885

That's why Hawaii should join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

The governor’s emergency modification to state licensing laws during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated a need to embrace license portability, making it a simple matter for a doctor licensed in another state to practice in Hawaii.

The interstate compact approach would streamline licensing for physicians, making it easier for doctors from participating states to practice in Hawaii without facing time-consuming, costly and redundant regulatory hurdles.

The state would retain its control over Hawaii licensure requirements, but would simultaneously increase the pool of doctors able to practice in Hawaii and shorten the time it would take for them to begin working here.

At present, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact includes 37 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. Five other states have introduced legislation to join as well. Years of successful implementation testify to the safety and effectiveness of this approach to license reciprocity.

Joining the IMLC would be an important step toward attracting more doctors to our state, thereby addressing our physician shortage and improving healthcare access for all.

That's why lawmakers can take an important step towards solving Hawaii's doctor shortage by passing HB 666, which would enter Hawaii into the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact.