Ohio Legislative Recap
This week, OSMA continued to work with state officials to advocate for physicians as decisions are being made on COVID-19 restarting and relief efforts and other major health policy issues—including racism and public health, liability, telehealth, and mental health parity.
As always, if you have questions about our advocacy efforts or want to learn more about how to get involved, contact our government affairs department.
This week, House Bill 606, which would expand civil immunity for health care and service providers during the pandemic, began its hearings in the Senate. OSMA has been supporting HB 606 (as well as an additional liability proposal, SB 308) on behalf of the physician community. The bill passed out of the House several weeks ago and must now advance through the Senate in order to be sent to the governor and signed into law.
House Bill 679 would modify several requirements related to telehealth services, with the intention of making telehealth easier and more accessible to both physicians and their patients. This legislation was fast tracked through the House, passing just two weeks after introduction. Last week, the OSMA advocated for some changes to the bill on behalf of physicians, and the sponsors were willing to revise the bill based on our comments. After the changes were incorporated into the new substitute bill, the OSMA submitted supportive testimony on the bill early this week before it passed out of committee. Now that the Ohio House passed HB 679, the Senate will now consider the bill.
Racism & Public Health
This week, the Ohio Senate Health, Human Services, and Medicaid Committee met regarding Senate Concurrent Resolution 14, which would declare racism a public health crisis in Ohio and establish a working group to promote racial equity in Ohio. Dozens of advocacy organizations, health entities (including the OSMA), public officials, and individuals across the state submitted testimony in support of SCR 14.
As you know, OSMA has increased educational efforts to raise awareness amongst Ohio’s physicians of disparities in medical access and treatment in Ohio based on factors such as disability, race, ethnicity, geography, and other social and demographic concerns. There is plentiful evidence that such health inequalities persist in our communities, and the recent coronavirus pandemic has shed even more light on health disparities tied to race. Throughout the U.S., including here in Ohio, we have seen a disproportionate impact of the virus on communities of color.
As part of our ongoing commitment to ensure racial equity in healthcare, current OSMA President Dr. Anthony Armstrong is serving as a part of Governor DeWine’s Minority Health Strike Force, assembled in April to develop recommendations for how the state should act in response to health disparities and COVID-19.
OSMA is supporting SCR 14 as part of ongoing efforts by state leaders and the medical community to address racial disparities in health care and to eliminate the harmful public health effects that racism and discrimination have upon Ohioans and Americans throughout our nation.
Mental Health Parity
As you may know, OSMA is working as a part of Ohio’s Parity at 10 coalition on a campaign in pursuit of mental health parity in Ohio. The Federal Parity Law, or Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), states that health insurers must cover mental illnesses or illnesses of the brain, such as addiction or depression, no more restrictively than physical illnesses of the body, such as cancers or diabetes. While Ohio passed a parity law in 2006, unfortunately it has a comparatively narrow scope and does not align with the federal parity law enacted two years later.
OSMA testified in support of parity legislation, Senate Bill 254, earlier this General Assembly. SB 254 and its companion bill, House Bill 443, will give Ohioans expanded access to mental health and addiction treatment by aligning state law with the Federal Parity Law. There are additional reporting requirements in the legislation, giving regulators powerful means by which to hold health plans and state officials accountable and enforce parity requirements. HB 443/SB 254 will also facilitate easier access to medically-necessary substance use disorder medications for Ohioans in need.
This week, HB 443 had its proponent hearing in the House Health Committee. OSMA submitted supportive testimony, touting HB 443 as a strong tool to help make Ohio healthier and to move forward in our efforts to support the recovery of individuals with substance use disorder. We will continue to support both the House and Senate versions of this legislation in the coming months.
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