Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers at both the federal and state level have worked to expand the availability of telehealth services. Since telehealth , in many cases, is viewed to provide a convenient, accessible and safe alternative to in-person visits with healthcare providers, it has been considered an effective tool to maintain access to healthcare services in light of the pandemic’s challenges. Consequently, many pre-pandemic regulatory limitations to telehealth were temporarily waived during the pandemic. Given this experience, and the generally favorable responses to expanded telehealth availability from patients and providers, many policymakers are now working to make this temporary expansion permanent.

Consistent with this trend, last year the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 122, which was signed into law by Governor DeWine on December 22, 2021. HB 122 helps expand telehealth availability through two primary mechanisms: (i) requiring health plans to reimburse healthcare professionals for providing covered telehealth services, and (ii) expanding the classes of health care providers who are authorized to provide telehealth services.

On the insurance side, HB 122 requires health plan issuers to reimburse health care professionals for a telehealth service that is covered under a patient’s health benefit plan. It also prohibits a health benefit plan from imposing a cost-sharing requirement for telehealth services that exceeds the cost-sharing requirement for a comparable in-person visit. Ohio requires each health benefit plan to provide coverage for telehealth services on the same basis and to the same extent that the plan provides coverage for the provision of in-person health care services.

On the provider side, HB 122 significantly expands the classes of providers authorized to provide telehealth services and thus considered “health care professionals” for purposes health plan telehealth coverage. Previously, only physicians, physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses were considered “health care professionals” for purposes of providing telehealth services. HB122 expands this classification to include optometrists, pharmacists, phycologists, chemical dependency counselors, dieticians and many others. This expansion should have the effect of improving the coverage and availability of telehealth services from these professionals. Dentists, however, are notably absent from the list, which may limit the availability of dental consults via telehealth.

HB122’s changes went into effect March 23, 2022, and should have a positive impact on the availability of telehealth services in Ohio.