A Dose of Free Market Medicine: Expanding Access to Healthcare Through Pharmacists

February 13, 2024 11:40AM

Former Chicago Mayor and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once remarked that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” While the remark is infamously remembered, the general point is valid. Issues and policies that can’t typically overcome political inertia are often possible during tough times. Look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic. There is arguably no sector of the economy more regulated and ensnared in red tape than healthcare. Yet during the pandemic, states across the country temporarily waived healthcare regulations in order to help the healthcare system more flexibility respond to the pandemic. 

Since then, many of these deregulatory efforts have been made permanent, better positioning the healthcare market for whatever the next challenge is. Here in Tennessee reforms were made to telehealth regulations, laboratory testing regulations and certificate of need laws for example.

In addition to these areas, several states have looked to reform another part of the healthcare market, especially in light of the pandemic and that is regulations on pharmacists. This was because pharmacists are considered one of the most accessible healthcare professionals For example, one study found that 90 percent of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacist. Pharmacists are even more critical in rural areas as 80 percent of community pharmacies serve rural areas compared to only 11 percent of physicians. As a result, pharmacists in several states were given the enhanced ability to help patients and consumers such as perform minor diagnostic tests and recommended treatments (“test and treat”). Idaho, the state that has gone the farthest in removing restrictions on pharmacists has even seen jobs created as a result of this effort. 

Beacon’s newest report, “A Dose of Free Market Medicine” compares Tennessee’s laws and regulations around pharmacists and compares it to recent reforms in other states such as Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and most notably Idaho. By enacting similar reforms, Tennessee policymakers can expand more access to healthcare, especially in our most rural areas.

To read the full report, click below.