It appears that 2013 will be a year of structural change for the economy and especially for those industries dependent upon unsustainable growth, such as healthcare. Furthermore, respiratory therapists may become an endangered species if deregulation is utilized as a means to consolidate health services.
Respiratory therapy was originally called Inhalation therapy with nurses providing the care, until it was evident that a separate profession was necessary to adequately serve the growing population of respiratory patients.
We have come a “long way baby” because technology and approaches to pulmonary medicine have evolved, requiring a dedicated and well-trained staff of respiratory professionals.
The National Alliance of Respiratory Care Professionals states that certain aspects of respiratory care should only be performed by a licensed respiratory care professional who has completed the educational requirements and passed the national board exams.
Furthermore, the Medicare Balanced Budget Refinement Act (1999) recognized that respiratory care provided by others could result in harm to the patient and increase the costs due to rehospitalization.
But the stringent rules that guide respiratory care are in danger. For example, in April 2012, the Michigan Office of Regulatory Reinvention (ORR) recommended the deregulation of 18 occupations, including respiratory care, and the elimination of the Michigan Board of Respiratory Care.
This would mean the elimination of the licensing requirement for respiratory therapists, resulting in no provisions to ensure that respiratory care providers are competent to deliver safe patient care.
Deregulation would result in no requirements for practicing respiratory care in the state of Michigan. Facilities could establish their own in-house standards and level of competencies. However, in these days of dwindling reimbursement for the underinsured or uninsured, who knows how stringent the standards would be and what would be the consequences.
Deregulation of respiratory therapy will be a tremendous set back to the profession and would require serious restructuring. If Michigan is considering these measures, can other states be far behind?
Healthcare will radically change as Obamacare integrates into the system. I believe respiratory therapy will undergo a serious facelift from its current structure and will require therapists to become active in their professional associations’ political efforts to remain solvent. Because at the end of the day, it will be the patients that suffer the most from this restructuring.