More Health Care Workers Want In On Kansas Telemedicine

Feb 6, 2018

A proposed telemedicine bill has Kansas medical providers pushing for a new chance to make their services eligible for reimbursement.

Under the House bill, introduced last month, licensed mental health care professionals and physicians can tend to faraway patients over phone or video calls. Insurers would have to cover their services as if they had seen patients in person.

Groups representing chiropractors, occupational therapists, nurses and other health professionals made their case for inclusion before the House Health and Human Services Committee on Monday.

“Reimbursement for these essential services not only increases access for Kansans, but keeps money within our state,” said Allison Gatewood of the Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Insurers, telemedicine providers and medical professionals have backed the bill, which they see as filling crucial gaps in available health services around the state, particularly in rural areas.

Opposition to the bill has come mostly from abortion rights groups, who object to a provision prohibiting abortion services over telemedicine.

“It’s disappointing to see because it’s otherwise a great bill that could expand access to a lot of other health care services,” said Rachel Sweet, who testified against the bill for Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

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

Anti-abortion organization Kansans for Life would like to push that language further. The organization wants lawmakers to add a clause that would invalidate the entire bill if any provision of it were found unconstitutional by court order.

“I understand that there are some legitimate health services that are necessary under a telemedicine bill," said Kansans for Life lobbyist Jeanne Gawdun, "but not at the expense of women and their babies being put at risk."

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