With COVID-19 still wreaking havoc on public health and the economy in the United States, President Donald Trump’s administration is taking steps to ensure that regulations do not get in the way of recovery efforts on either front.

In May, Trump signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to remove barriers to things like telemedicine and loosen restrictions on licensing requirements to ensure that healthcare workers can go where they are most needed during the pandemic. 

“Just as we continue to battle COVID-19 itself, so too must we now join together to overcome the effects the virus has had on our economy,” the order says. “To aid those efforts, agencies must continue to remove barriers to the greatest engine of economic prosperity the world has ever known:  the innovation, initiative, and drive of the American people.”

In regards to healthcare specifically, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report that the executive order will give local hospitals the power to separate COVID-19 patients and transfer them to outside facilities if needed. The agency says these changes will help expand testing capacity, conserve PPE,  and supplement the work of FEMA and state/local public health agencies.

“Every day, heroic nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers are dedicating long hours to their patients. This means sacrificing time with their families and risking their very lives to care for coronavirus patients,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “Front line healthcare providers need to be able to focus on patient care in the most flexible and innovative ways possible. This unprecedented temporary relaxation in regulation will help the healthcare system deal with patient surges by giving it tools and support to create non-traditional care sites and staff them quickly.”

The May 19 executive order is another in a series of deregulatory measures undertaken by the Trump administration on everything from education to the environment. Some of the measures have been challenged in court and repealed, according to a tracker from Brookings

Despite those setbacks, officials hope that health-related deregulation can become permanent to reduce red tape long after COVID-19 ends. The Washington Examiner reports that the Trump administration hopes to permanently cut occupational regulations for doctors and nurses that were suspended temporarily during the pandemic as a way to continue economic growth moving forward.

“The White House has a long interest in further cutting down occupational regulations or state licensing requirements that are unnecessary,” Tomas Philipson, acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told the Washington Examiner. “Obviously, we want to have exams for medical doctors, etc., but that’s something that I think is very valuable in terms of an overall economic agenda.”


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