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Ohio passes Medicaid telehealth coverage law

By Jennifer Bresnick

If Ohio Governor John Kasich signs a unanimously agreed-upon bill, Medicaid providers in Ohio will able to participate in telehealth services and be assured of reimbursement. The law will add Ohio to the list of 45 states that allow for Medicaid coverage of remote services, and will allow low-income and rural patients a better chance to receive routine care without the expense and trouble of traveling difficult distances to visit a physician’s office.

“I am glad to see that my colleagues in the Senate continued the good work that was done by the House,” said State Representative Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville). “This legislation is a great step in helping cut health care costs in our Medicaid system and will allow patients in rural areas better access to specialists.”

“At a time when many Ohioans lack ready access to needed healthcare, HealthSpot commends Representatives Anne Gonzales and Lynn R. Wachtmann for bringing attention to this important issue by sponsoring HB 123 and we thank them for their continued support of Ohio telehealth,” added Steve Cashman, CEO of HealthSpot, a telemedicine company that supported the bill’s passage. “This puts us one step closer to solving physician shortages across the country and increasing access to care for all Americans.”

While the majority of states allow Medicaid to reimburse for telehealth services at the same level as in-person visits, fewer states have true parity for both governmental and private insurers.  Montana is the latest state to join the equal reimbursement club, and will now require all private payers to let physicians bill for appropriate services provided over the internet or by phone. “We believe telemedicine can play a critical role in improving health and managing chronic disease, while increasing member satisfaction,” said Ethan Slavin, a spokesman for Aetna. “Telemedicine can also significantly reduce costs by reducing non-medically necessary ER visits and readmissions as members use virtual options for after-hours care and provider instruction.”

Telehealth is gaining steam at a national level as experts search for ways to increase access to preventative services while cutting costs for an industry in economic peril.  Telehealth has been shown to increase patient satisfaction while reducing the time crunch for overburdened providers, and is becoming a key tool for managing chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity.  Providers and lawmakers alike are trying to break down legal and licensure barriers that prevent physicians from conducting telehealth consults across state lines even as smartphone and tablet ownership make the idea of personal health tracking and online communication increasingly attractive to patients.

 

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