January 13, 2022

New Law Expands Telehealth in Ohio

Representative Mark Fraizer

The new year begins with the prospect of more certainty around telehealth services in Ohio, thanks to a new law I sponsored (with Rep. Adam Holmes), HB 122, which was passed unanimously by the State House and Senate and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine on Dec. 22.

The new law writes into statute many of the rule changes that were put in place to expand coverage of telehealth services when the pandemic made getting to a doctor’s office difficult and potentially dangerous. It also expands the availability of telehealth, including many types of practitioners and technologies, creating new flexibility in the doctor/patient relationship. The ultimate goal is high-quality health outcomes.

It requires insurers to reimburse patients for covered telehealth services but doesn’t specify a specific payment amount.

OAHP’s members, as well as hospitals, physicians, and others in the healthcare marketplace, wholeheartedly support telehealth modernization, and the rare agreement among lawmakers among all parties on this issue shows that Ohioans feel the same way.

The use of telehealth exploded during pandemic-related lockdown of 2020, and these emergency-inspired updates allowed us to see the greatest use case is in expanding access to health care, leading to better health outcomes. Most obviously, telehealth erases geographic limitations on physicians and the need for patient transportation, which are some of the greatest barriers facing members served by Ohio’s Medicaid plans. This accessibility encourages preventive care.

For health plan members in rural areas, telehealth makes possible regular visits with specialists that are rare to nonexistent in many areas throughout the State.

Because telehealth removes so many barriers, patients have been shown more likely to keep telehealth appointments over those for in-person visits.

Another important feature of HB 122 is language requiring long-term-care facilities to provide video-conference visitation capabilities for residents and their families during “a declared disaster, epidemic, pandemic, public health emergency or public safety emergency.” This addresses one of the pandemic’s most frustrating and heartbreaking aspects, when elderly or disabled residents were cut off from loved ones for months out of fear of spreading the virus among a vulnerable population. Many couldn’t understand why their families no longer were visiting, compounding their distress and causing negative outcomes for many patients.

As OAHP President and CEO Kelly O’Reilly testified before the Senate Health Committee in November, OAHP’s member health plans have been supporting innovative telehealth options for years. Working together, I am enthusiastic about how HB 122 will continue making these services more accessible to all Ohioans with greater health outcomes and lower costs.