Private insurance companies in Ohio are now required to cover doctor visits over the phone or on the computer.
The recently approved state budget includes a provision requiring insurance companies to cover remote doctor visits called telemedicine.
Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed the two-year budget bill July 18. Authorization of telehelath coverage is just one of the many state programs the sweeping $69 billion document covers.
Doctors have been anxious to include telemedicine in their practice but until law guaranteed insurance payments, some were reluctant to purchase equipment and learn how to do it, said Reginald Fields, spokesman for the Ohio State Medical Association.
"If there is a service that your individual private insurance currently covers and pays for, if you we to go and see your physician in person, under coverage parity that same service will now has to be covered under telemedicine, telehealth as well," Fields said.
As more doctors offer services via electronic devices, it will also benefit people in rural areas, who often have to travel long distances so see a doctor, he said.
“Patients are going to be thrilled that they now have an opportunity to be able to connect with their physician on the same day that they maybe need some services as opposed to maybe having to schedule time away from home or their work or families,” Fields said.
Telemedicine measures have been approved already in 35 other states, “so, Ohio is really kind of catching up,” he said.
Although the budget provides insurance coverage for telehealth in Ohio, there are still issues to be worked out concerning how much insurers will pay doctors for tele-visits, compared to in-person visits, Fields said.
“What’s the fair price for doing that versus the overhead costs for someone to actually have staff in office to take in the patients and any equipment that is used in the office during that period of time,” he said.