Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation Wednesday that would provide access to legal service plans to Oklahoma state employees through a voluntary payroll deduction.

House Bill 2180 by Rep. Ronny Johns, R-Ada, requires state agencies to make payroll deductions for the payment of any insurance premiums due a private insurance organization or service company at the request of the employee.

“You never know when you’ll need an attorney’s assistance, and when you do need one, you don’t want to add the stress of finding a quality attorney on top of your legal worries,” Johns said.

“The change brought about by House Bill 2180 allows our state employees the option of opting into a subscription-based legal services they can utilize when necessary. I believe this will greatly benefit our state employees who choose to use this, and I’m grateful the governor saw fit to sign it into law.”

HB2180 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, whose District 13 includes most of Garvin County.

“House Bill 2180 updates our statutes so that state employees can better access prepaid legal service plans, such as those offered by companies like LegalShield, based in Ada,” McCortney said.

“It was a pleasure to work with Representative Johns on this legislation, and I thank our fellow members and Governor Stitt for their support.”

Ada is the headquarters of LegalShield, a company that contracts with Oklahoma law firms to provide legal services for subscribers, which employs approximately 700 people.

“I appreciate the important role that LegalShield plays in our Ada community, and I want to thank their CEO Jeff Bell and Executive Vice President Keri Norris for working with us on this legislation,” Johns said.

“House Bill 2180 opens more opportunities for economic growth for southeastern Oklahoma.”

HB2180 will go into effect Nov. 1, 2021.

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The full Senate has given final approval to a bill ensuring payment parity for physicians who care for patients using telemedicine.

McCortney is the principal Senate author of Senate Bill 674. The measure was approved on Thursday.

McCortney, chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, said insurance companies have typically paid physicians a lower amount for telemedicine visits compared to in-person office visits for the same services.

During the pandemic, the governor’s emergency orders guaranteed parity in payments. SB 674 would make that permanent, encouraging continued and expanded use of telemedicine.

During 2019, SoonerCare members completed 11,941 telehealth visits. In 2020, that number rose to 333,415 visits, an increase of 2,726 percent in just one year.

“SB 674 will help us capture the momentum we’ve seen this past year and encourage more and better use of telemedicine,” McCortney said.

“It means employees can take less time off work for medical appointments, and it helps seniors who may no longer drive or have other mobility issues—it can be a great convenience for just about anyone, and it helps provide greater access to care in our rural communities.”

Rep. Mark McEntire, R-Duncan, chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Health, is the House principal author of the legislation.

“Assuring that all insurers equally cover telehealth services is something that will benefit patients and health care providers across our state,” McEntire said.

“We learned during the pandemic that telehealth actually increased the frequency of people consulting with their doctors, and we’re hopeful that will lead to better health outcomes, which would be of great benefit to all of us.”

SB 674 will now be sent to the governor for his consideration.

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