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DeWine budget includes requirement for expanded telemedicine coverage

More Ohio insurers would be required to cover virtual doctor’s visits just like they would any other medical appointment, under a proposal from Gov. Mike DeWine that’s backed by some of Ohio’s largest health-care providers (Source: “DeWine administration seeks expansion of insurance coverage for virtual doctor’s visits,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 10, 2019).

In an interview, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said expanding telemedicine coverage would increase convenience for patients, broaden access for people in rural areas and decrease the likelihood that people visit the emergency room for routine health care. He said telemedicine, an emerging trend in health care, especially shows promise for addiction and other mental-health treatment.

The DeWine administration has proposed requiring that ”health benefit plans” cover telemedicine “on the same basis and to the same extent as in-person services.” The proposal only would affect state-regulated insurance plans — individual, small group and large-group plans — which cover roughly 1.7 million people, or about one-quarter of all Ohioans with private insurance.

Many insurers already cover telemedicine to varying degrees, but specifics of what the coverage actually entails varies. The telemedicine proposal, backed by the Cleveland Clinic and other large health-care providers, appears in the DeWine administration’s budget bill. Identical language appeared in a bill, sponsored by Strongsville Rep. Tom Patton, that cleared the Ohio House last year, but the measure died in the Senate.