Advocacy Update: OSMA Advocates for Physicians on Numerous Major Issues
Over the past few weeks, the Ohio Statehouse has been bustling with hearings, interested party meetings, and other activity, and your OSMA advocacy team, along with several OSMA physician members, have been busy in downtown Columbus to make physician voices heard.
Here is a summary of the many issues OSMA has been working on recently...
Tanning ban for minors:
OSMA has been working closely with the Ohio Dermatological Association (ODA) on an effort to support prohibiting the use of indoor tanning services for individuals under the age of 18 in Ohio. Senate Bill 59 was introduced in February and referred to the Senate Health Committee.
Its companion bill, House Bill 169, was introduced in May and referred to the House Health Provider Services Committee. Recently, Dr. Shannon Trotter testified in support of this legislation for the second time this year on behalf of OSMA and ODA. HB 169 is sponsored by Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), and not only contains the same protections as SB 59, but additional provisions which require that the term “dermatologist” be used only to refer to a physician with an MD or DO. We are advocating that this language be included in SB 59 as well.
Certified mental health assistants:
OSMA VP of Advocacy, Monica Hueckel, recently testified in opposition to Senate Bill 60 for the second time this year. This legislation, which was referred to the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee, would create a new type of mental health care provider in Ohio – the certified mental health assistant. The medical community has significant concerns with this concept, particularly because this would be an entirely new allied practitioner designation that does not exist elsewhere in any other state. The certified mental health assistant would operate under a two-year license and under the direct supervision of a physician. We continue to express our opposition to Senate Bill 60 and its companion bill in the House, HB 97.
OSMA is thrilled to report that one of our priority issues has been reintroduced in the Ohio House by Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) and Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton). House Bill 291 would prohibit 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. OSMA has partnered with Ohio Association of Rheumatology in an effort to support this legislation’s passage in Ohio, in order to avoid the disruption of a physician’s ability to exercise their medical expertise and help their patients caused by abrupt and unwarranted treatment changes. Now that the bill has been reintroduced, we await hearings on HB 291 and hope for an opportunity to testify in support soon.
Another returning priority in the Ohio House is House Bill 177, concerning co-pay accumulator policies. 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. This legislation which would require insurers and PBMs to count all payments made by patients directly or on their behalf toward their deductibles and out-of-pocket cost will be reintroduced this year. This is essential to increasing predictability as vulnerable patients face high out-of-pocket costs for their prescriptions.
HB 177 has been referred to the House Public Health Policy Committee, and this month, OSMA provided proponent testimony in support of the bill. We will continue to advocate for this legislation in the coming months.
Pharmacists – scope of practice:
Recently introduced to the Ohio Senate, Senate Bill 144 would authorize certified pharmacy technicians and registered pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations in the same manner that pharmacy interns are authorized to do so under current law. Further, it would authorize pharmacists, interns, and technicians to administer immunizations beginning when a child is five, as opposed to the current law age limit of seven. It would also eliminate a requirement that most immunizations for children under age 13 be prescribed in order to be administered by a pharmacist or pharmacy intern.
Although the bill has only had its sponsor and proponent hearings to date, OSMA is monitoring it carefully and has expressed numerous concerns of the physician community about its provisions to elected officials. We will watch SB 144 closely and ensure OSMA provides opponent testimony when the opportunity arises.
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline:
House Bill 231 was introduced in the Ohio House in June and referred to the Finance Committee. It just recently had its first hearing at the end of last month. This legislation would establish a long-term 9-8-8 suicide prevention and mental health crisis telephone line in Ohio. The OSMA House of Delegates passed a resolution in April to prioritize securing funding for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, and earlier this year, OSMA’s advocacy during the budget process helped secure nearly $47 million over the next two years to continue 988 service operations at its 19 Ohio call centers. HB 231 would codify the Lifeline and ensure its future financial stability. We are closely monitoring this legislation and will provide support in the coming months.
This month, Senate Bill 126 had a hearing in the Senate Health Committee. This legislation limits the use of non-compete agreements—also known as restrictive covenants—for physicians, physician assistants (PAs), and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) employed at nonprofit hospitals in Ohio. OSMA supported similar legislation in the prior general assembly (SB 150), and looks forward to continuing to work with its sponsor, physician and Senator Terry Johnson (R-McDermott).
OSMA President Dr. Eric Drobny recently testified before the House Insurance Committee on behalf of OSMA and the Ohio Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians in support of House Bill 99, which would strengthen Ohio’s prudent layperson standard. As a reminder, the goal of this bill is to protect Ohioans from unexpected medical bills due to their insurer denying claims for emergency care after the care has been sought and provided. We believe it is critical that patients not delay seeking emergency care out of fear that their insurers will not cover their visit.
HB 99 was introduced in March by Rep. Susan Manchester (R-Waynesfield) and has had several hearings since its introduction. This legislation would not prohibit insurers from ever denying a claim, but it would ensure that the claim could not be denied merely on the basis of the final diagnosis, and require insurers to take all other relevant medical information into account, including the symptoms the patient presented with at the time of seeking emergency care.
Please stay tuned to OSMA communications for more updates as the fall session continues. We will provide timely updates in the coming weeks on any further relevant activity.