Kansas Telemedicine Bill Dragged Into Abortion Debate

Feb 2, 2018

A telemedicine bill aimed at improving health care access for Kansans, particularly in rural areas, may get bogged down in abortion politics.

The legislation would mean insurance companies can’t refuse to pay for services provided long-distance that they would cover at an in-person office visit.

More controversially, the bill would not allow drug-induced abortion or other abortion procedures through telemedicine.

Kansas law already requires that women receiving a drug-induced abortion take the drug in the physical presence of the doctor who provided it.

Attaching a provision to explicitly prohibit abortion — rather than allowing that to be presumed because of the existing law — injects controversy into a proposal that has broad backing from key players in health.

A special committee with representatives from the Kansas House and Senate met in October 2017 to hash out the details of the bill with input from insurance companies, medical and hospital groups, and telemedicine providers. The drafted bill reflects the consensus of those talks, with a few additions — notably the abortion provision.

Rachelle Columbo, a lobbyist for the Kansas Medical Society and part of the group that worked together to lay out the bill’s provisions, said the abortion provision was added later.

“This was a surprise thrown in there,” said Rep. Susan Concannon, a member of the special committee. “The overall consensus during the interim committee was that we were patients-first, and anything that was legal to do in person could be done through telemed.”

Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee will hear from opponents of the telemedicine bill on Monday.

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Madeline Fox is a reporter or the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @maddycfox.

 

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