telemedicine

Avera eCARE

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — When Christi Graber checked into the St. Catherine Hospital emergency room late last year, she thought she was having a heart attack.

Her left arm ached, she felt dizzy, and she experienced shortness of breath.

The hospital’s cardiologist wasn’t available that night or for the next three days, so Graber had two options: Travel by ambulance to see a cardiologist more than two hours away in Hays during a snowstorm; or simply go home. Ultimately, she and her husband drove home.

They worried both about the weather and the cost.

Kansas lawmakers gave the go-ahead Monday to expand telemedicine services after reaching agreement on abortion language that had threatened to scuttle the move.

The bill cleared the state Senate and House by large margins, but only after eleventh-hour brinksmanship that gave anti-abortion forces the assurances they demanded.

Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, fought for weeks to maintain a clause in the legislation designed to discourage a court challenge over its ban on drug-induced abortions.

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.

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.

When evening falls, Brian Hunt makes his way to a comfortable chair in a sun room on the south side of his house near La Cygne, Kansas. But he’s not settling in to relax. He’s going to work.