March 17, 2020

COVID-19 and Ohio’s
Healthcare System

To Ohio Gastroenterology Society members:

The COVID-19 pandemic has led Ohio’s leaders to implement extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of all Ohioans. I wanted to provide you with an update on measures impacting our healthcare system and physicians.

Elective Surgeries Postponed

Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, MD, has ordered hospitals and outpatient surgical centers to postpone all elective, non-essential surgeries and procedures indefinitely.

The order, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will
become effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 5 p.m.

Read the Order >

Only scheduled surgeries and procedures that meet one or more of the following criteria as it relates to the patient’s medical condition will be allowed:

  • There is a threat to the patient’s life if the surgery or procedure is not performed;
  • There is a threat of permanent dysfunction of an extremity or organ;
  • There is a risk of metastasis or progression of staging;
  • Risk of rapidly worsening to severe symptoms (time sensitivity).

If the surgery or procedure does not meet one of the above criteria, then it must be canceled, Gov. Mike DeWine and Dr. Acton announced on Tuesday. Medical facilities—whether public, private or non-profit—must establish internal operating guidelines to adhere to this order.

This decision was made in hopes of freeing up medical personnel and preserving personal medical equipment and supplies for what is anticipated to be an increase in COVID-19 patients in Ohio in the coming weeks who will require serious medical attention, including hospitalization.

Telemedicine Services Urged

With many physicians reporting patients cancelling appointments or medical practices seeking to limit traffic in their office due to the virus, the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) is advocating for increased telemedicine services so that patients still have access to their doctor.

The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM), the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) are each revising telemedicine rules and creating directives that will allow telehealth services to be used and providers properly reimbursed during this time of crisis.

Today, CMS announced it was broadening access to Medicare telehealth services so that beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility.

Read about this temporary service expansion >

We expect the state Medicaid office to come out with its plan on either Wednesday or Thursday. And the governor’s office has had discussions with private insurers. Additionally, the State Medical Board of Ohio is expected to revise licensing rules around telemedicine.

Small Business Support

If the COVID-19 crisis is expected to leave a significant financial impact on you and your medical staff, the Gov. DeWine’s administration on Sunday outlined a series of provisions to support small businesses. The governor’s orders will also provide relief for patients who are being evaluated or treated for COVID-19.

Unemployment benefits will be available for eligible individuals who are requested by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19, even if they are not actually diagnosed with COVID-19. In addition, the waiting period for eligible Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits will be waived. Additional information is here.

Additionally, as the federal government considers a stimulus package, national medical organizations are advocating for direct support for physicians and their practices. We should have more details regarding these opportunities before the end of this month.

Other Details

The state Medical Board and state Pharmacy Board are each expected to meet or issue directives on Wednesday or Thursday that are expected to relax some rules related to prescribing medications and monitoring patients who are under your care and taking prescribed controlled medications.

And if you have questions as to what you should do if you suspect a patient is sick or is complaining of being sick, follow the ODH recommended guidelines at:

For any additional questions:
Please email Reginald Fields, OGS Director.


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