Ohio Legislature Responds to the COVID-19 Emergency
The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) is committed to keeping Ohio physicians informed on state and federal updates related to COVID-19, especially how they impact Ohio’s medical practices and healthcare professionals.
On Wednesday, March 25, the Ohio Legislature took action in response to coronavirus by amending an existing bill, House Bill 197, to include a series of provisions to cover a variety of issues the state now faces due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Senate passed the measure unanimously (26-0), and later, the Ohio House unanimously approved the Senate amended legislation and sent it to Governor Mike DeWine for approval.
It’s important to note many of the items in this legislation are temporary in nature, and are set to be rescinded upon the earlier of two possible dates: the rescission of Governor DeWine’s March 9 state of emergency executive order, or December 1, 2020.
Here’s a breakdown of the major items contained in the bill passed out of both chambers, including items related specifically to the health care industry, as well businesses and other community programs and services.
Health Care Workforce:
- Gives Medicaid additional flexibility to support the existing community health care workforce in continuing access to critical services during the COVID-19 emergency. With this provision, the state is proactively preparing for the impact the disruption of COVID-19 could have on certain provider classes in the coming months. The bill gives the Medicaid Director the ability to, if necessary, collaborate with the governor and the Office of Budget Management to seek additional support for practices and providers experiencing significant loss of patient visitation and revenue during the COVID-19 crisis. It is critical that Ohio work to avoid workforce and access shortages during the emergency and after the crisis has passed.
- Permits recent nursing graduates to obtain a temporary license to practice in nursing prior to passing licensure examination, with these temporary licenses expiring either 90 days after the COVID-19 emergency or December 1, 2020. The testing facilities needed for the administration of these licensure exams are closed due to the emergency, so this provision will give nurses who recently graduated the ability to practice and provide care to patients in need until the testing centers able to open.
Employment & Licensure:
- Permits an extension of all licenses issued by state agencies under the Ohio Revised Code and provides a 90-day renewal period. Disciplinary actions will still be permitted during that 90-day window.
- Allows for recently retired state employees from the following agencies to be rehired: Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Department of Youth Services, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Department of Veterans Services, Department of Developmental Disabilities.
- Codifies the governor’s executive order regarding unemployment compensation, waives the first week waiting period, changes eligibility to include unemployment situations related to COVID-19, and waives work search requirement.
- Suspends requirements relating to staff to child ratios and maximum group sizes at child care centers. The Director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) made an order effective Thursday, March 25, 2020 at 11:59pm closing all child care service facilities that do not have a Temporary Pandemic Child Care License issued by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).
- Permits ODJFS to continue to make payments to publicly funded child care providers during the COVID-19 emergency.
- Extends the filing deadline for state income taxes and for state-administered municipal net profit taxes from April 15 to July 15, mirroring earlier actions taken at the national level with regard to the federal tax filing deadline. In addition, the bill extended the due date for estimated payments and waives interest from payments that have an extended due date.
- Modifies the municipal income tax to account for employees working from home during the health emergency and for a period of 30 days immediately following.
- Extends primary election absentee voting by mail to April 28, 2020 and authorizes $7M to pay associated costs.
Education & Schools:
- Releases schools from food processing requirements in order to continue student meal delivery.
- Allows schools to use distance learning to make up missed days/hours of instruction due to their ordered closure. This applies to school districts, STEM schools, community schools which are not e-schools, and chartered nonpublic schools.
- Permits licensed special education providers to utilize telehealth and electronic methods in order to provide students receiving special education services through local school districts or through several scholarships with their services.
- Waives state testing and report card requirements for the 2019-2020 school year and protects schools from sanctions related to these requirements.
- Permits seniors to graduate if it is the school’s determination that students were on track to do so prior to the health emergency.
Public, Government, & Legal Services:
- Prohibits disconnection of public water services during the pandemic.
- Allows state boards & commissions, local & county governments, and higher education boards to conduct meetings electronically, provided that the public is made aware and is able to participate electronically.
- Allows for the pausing or delaying of the running of the period of time set forth by a statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases as well as administrative acts that would expire between March 9 and July 30, 2020.
- Makes certain financial preparations to prepare for the impact of the health emergency, such as allowing the state administration to seek Controlling Board approval to transfer funds from the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, if needed, in order to end the fiscal year with a balanced budget.
- Authorizes certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) to perform additional duties or services related to anesthesia care. The provisions of this amendment were taken from the latest version of House Bill 224. Several months ago, both the OSMA and the Ohio Society of Anesthesiologists (OSA) took a neutral position on HB 224 after years of work on the issue to come to a reasonable solution which sensibly fit into the anesthesia care model and maintained the physician-led team-based approach to care. Although this section of the bill is not related to the COVID-19 health emergency, it was included in the bill following the compromise, and this change will be permanent law. As a reminder, the compromise that was brokered allows a CRNA to order and administer tests, drugs and fluids ONLY during the pre-op and post-op time periods and ONLY pursuant to a facility protocol along with approval of the supervising physician.