CLEVELAND — Families in Ohio can visit the doctor from a phone or laptop at a lower out-of-pocket cost now that private insurance companies are required to cover visits under Ohio law.
The change happened after Governor Mike DeWine signed the budget bill, allowing telehealth coverage, which covers about a quarter of Ohioans with private insurance.
Until law guaranteed insurance payments, experts said patients and doctors alike were reluctant to try it out.
Medical director of telehealth at University Hospital, Brian Zach, said virtual appointments benefit the doctors and patients alike.
"One less thing for them to worry about is whether or not this will be paid for. We are trying to cut off the distance and increase the convenience. Payment and cost to them is a really important step," Zach said.
Zach said doctors are able to see more patients per day, and see those who need more frequent check ups easier.
From elderly clients who have trouble driving to patients counties far away, virtual visits make it easier to see the doctor.
"This is actually a tool to increase compliance, and to help patients with chronic disease states follow up with their regular positions about their daily weights or their daily blood pressure,," he said.
The Cleveland Clinic is also making telemedicine a priority. Visits increased from 70 in 2014 when the service launched, to more than 40,000 in 2018.
While the budget provides insurance coverage for telehealth in Ohio, there are still a few kinks to work out, such as figuring out how insurers will pay doctors for visits.