Ohio's 2021 Legislative Wrap Up & 2022 Preview
It was another hectic year for OSMA’s Advocacy team with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and with many major legislative issues in the spotlight. As usual, OSMA was on-hand to discuss topics impacting the practice of medicine with legislators and testify in committee hearings.
Read on for a summary of the activity on OSMA’s advocacy agenda this past year, and a preview of what’s in store for 2022.
In early December, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 122, which makes the telehealth rules relaxed by the state Medical Board during the pandemic permanent. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Mark Frazier (R-Newark) and Rep. Adam Holmes (R-Nashport), and OSMA’s advocacy team has been working on this issue diligently for the duration of the pandemic. The timing of HB 122 becoming law is critical, as the current telehealth rules are set to expire March 31, 2022. Because HB 122 will go into effect prior to this deadline, physicians can continue to practice and provide care via telehealth as they are now with no interruption in patient care.
- Interstate Medical License Compact:
Senate Bill 6, signed into law by Governor DeWine on June 29, 2021, authorizes the State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO) to enter into the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. Ohio becomes the 35th state to become a member of the Compact. Physicians from any state with Compact membership, including Ohio, who meet the qualifications will be eligible for licensure in any other participating state. SB 6, sponsored by Senator Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City), gives the SMBO until September 29, 2022 to implement the system to begin processing and issuing licenses through this path. OSMA supported SB 6 during its journey through the legislative process and testified in support of its passage in committee hearings.
OSMA has fought against a series of anti-vaccination proposals over the past year, the latest of which being House Bill 218. After conducting two hearings on HB 218, the Ohio Senate declined to schedule any further hearings on the bill prior to the holidays, but OSMA expects the issue to resurface now that the legislators have returned.
HB 218 would prohibit Ohio schools, employers, and institutions of higher education from requiring vaccines, drugs, or other products that use mRNA, DNA, or other genetic technology that has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Furthermore, it would broaden vaccine requirements such that most Ohio workers and students could refuse a COVID-19 vaccine requirement with a simple written statement.
As a reminder, our OSMA advocacy team has continued to help lead the coalition against the bill, which is comprised of over 100 organizations in business, manufacturing, education and health care, representing over a million Ohioans.
OSMA also rallied a massive grassroots effort across the state to communicate to legislators about the dangers posed by proposals that discourage community vaccination rates. In response to our recent call-to-action, over 650 of our members and allies all over Ohio have sent messages to their elected officials in the Ohio Senate, urging them to reject HB 218.
Prior to HB 218, OSMA was actively involved in a similar effort against a similar proposal, HB 435, and HB 248, which would have prohibited employers and schools from requiring ANY vaccinations (not just COVID-19).
Other Issues & 2022 Preview
OSMA continued to work on the following issues in 2021, and they remain a part of the 2022 advocacy agenda:
- OSMA Insurance Reform Initiative:
OSMA continues to hear concerns from our members about the administrative burdens that insurer policies and processes create for them and their practices, along with certain roadblocks to care that their patients encounter due to those policies. Over the past year, your OSMA advocacy team has been exploring and researching these issues in preparation for pursuit of further legislative reform in Ohio.
Some of the issues we are looking into taking action on include:
- Insurance Company Takeback Payments
- Prior Authorizations
In early 2022, OSMA is looking into drafting legislation and getting a proposal introduced to enact these important reforms. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks!
- Non-Medical Switching:
Non-medical switching occurs when patients are forced to switch to a different medication in the middle of a plan year for no medical reason due to formulary changes from the health insurer. House Bill 153, an OSMA-supported proposal, would prohibit insurers from engaging in the practice of non-medical switching.
This bill, sponsored by Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) and Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), would avoid the disruption of a physician’s ability to exercise their medical expertise and help their patients caused by abrupt and unwarranted treatment changes. Additionally, HB 153 would prohibit private health plans from increasing patient cost-sharing or from moving drugs to a more restrictive tier during a plan year.
- Co-pay Accumulator:
Health plans and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) may apply co-pay accumulator adjustment policies when patients attempt to use copay assistance programs. These prohibit a patient’s copay assistance amount from count toward their deductible and maximum out-of-pocket cap.
House Bill 135, another OSMA-supported bill, would require insurers and PBMs to count all payments made by patients directly or on their behalf toward their deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, increasing predictability as vulnerable patients face high out-of-pocket costs for their prescriptions. This legislation is sponsored by Rep. Susan Manchester (R-Waynesfield) and Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton). There have been several hearings on the bill.
Scope of Practice Issues
- Scope of Practice – APRNs:
OSMA stands in opposition to HB 221, legislation that would allow Ohio APRNs to practice independently and without physician supervision. Along with other physician groups, and much like we have historically, we will continue to advocate against this, stressing the importance of patient safety and maintaining physician oversight. The bill has yet to have any legislative hearings, but OSMA continues to monitor the issue carefully.
- Scope of Practice – Physician Assistants:
OSMA expects legislation for independent practice for physician assistants may be introduced, and we will similarly oppose this initiative.
Public Health Issues
- Tanning Ban for Minors:
OSMA joins the Ohio Dermatological Association again in support of a measure that would prohibit individuals under age 18 from using tanning beds (HB 159). If enacted, this proposal would protect the youth in our state from exposure to dangerous ultraviolet radiation that drastically increases the chance of developing skin cancer, particularly when exposure occurs before adulthood.
- Health Equity:
The pandemic and elevated conversations about racial justice have brought the issue of healthcare equity to the forefront. OSMA is dedicated making sure health care is fully inclusive and attainable so that everyone has access to necessary medical services regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other defining characteristic.
- Mental Health:
OSMA will continue our advocacy for increased access to mental health and substance use disorder care, including access to medication-assisted treatment.
Additionally, the OSMA Foundation, in partnership with the Ohio Physicians Health Plan (OPHP) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), recently launched OSMA CARES: Well-being Checkup And Referral Engagement Service. This is a free, simple and anonymous tool to help physicians and all Ohio-licensed health care providers check up on their mental and emotional health.
OSMA will keep you informed this year with the upcoming election and the proceedings in the Ohio Legislature. Stay tuned for forthcoming information in our monthly advocacy updates!