On June 18, Governor DeWine lifted Ohio’s public declaration of emergency in place due to the impacts of COVID-19. For many health care providers, this status along with the federal public health emergency status caused many licensing authorities and regulators to relax certain laws regarding the provision and delivery of health care. The most impactful for providers has been the ability to provide telehealth with limited restrictions on requirements such as provider location, the elimination of the necessity to see a patient face-to-face upon initial visit, and some prescribing limits.
While many providers leaned on the ease of enforcement during this time to stay in business and keep patients safe, the time has come to revert back in many cases. The public health emergency status—both at the state and federal levels—is often built into various enforcement laws as an outlet for authorities to alter the normal legal requirements because of an emergency. Some Ohio licensing agencies made permanent some of their telehealth and other rules. However, here is a summary of some of the Ohio’s licensing body reversion timelines:
- Ohio State Medical Board (OSMB) – On June 17, the OSMB announced it would revert back to requirements for in-person visits and various telemedicine laws on September 17, 2021. OSMB will post more detail on these changes.1
- Ohio Board of Nursing (OBN) – Under Ohio Revised Code 4723(G)(7), nurses licensed in other states are permitted to practice nursing in Ohio without an Ohio license during an emergency declaration. Since the Ohio declaration has ended, OBN announced they will consider this practice permissible until the federal public health emergency ends.
- Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board (CSWMFT) – The CSWMFT has established that effective September 24, 2021, the following rules under Ohio Administrative Code 4757-5-13 will be enforced again:
- Requirement to hold an initial face-to-face meeting (in-person or via video);
- Requirement to obtain written consent prior to treatment; and
- Use of a HIPAA-compliant platform that exceeds current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidance regarding remote communications during the federal COVID-19 nationwide Public Health Emergency.
- All Ohio health care provider licensees: Many of these boards extended a grace period for licensure renewals until July 1, 2021 because of the states of emergency. Be sure to check your applicable licensing body and your professionals’ licenses to ensure appropriate active status.
Finally, the federal public health emergency declared in 2020 is currently still in effect. Although the government has not officially announced an end date, most regulatory agencies are suggesting that it will expire on December 31, 2021. Many health care providers have benefited from CMS’s use of the 1135 waivers to loosen telehealth requirements, Conditions of Participation, and practice-specific licensure requirements. Since Ohio’s state of emergency declaration has been lifted, it is likely that this is in line with the expiration of the federal declaration. As with nearly all laws in conflict, the stricter law prevails. Health care providers should be on notice now to begin working toward the state laws mentioned here in preparation for these deadlines.