- Kansas medical providers are throwing their weight behind legislation that would make telemedicine services eligible for reimbursement, KCUR radio reported.
- Introduced last month, H.B. 2512 would allow physicians and licensed mental health professionals to treat patients remotely and require insurers to reimburse their services at the same rate as an in-person visit.
- The bill, which is also backed by insurers, is seen as a way to expand access to care within the state, particularly in rural areas. “Reimbursement for these essential services not only increases access for Kansans, but keeps money within our state,” Allison Gatewood of the Kansan Speech-Language-Hearing Association told a House committee hearing Monday.
Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia have telehealth parity laws, according to the American Telemedicine Association. The Kansas Medical Society has consistently maintained that telemedicine should be held to the same standard and receive the same coverage as in-person medical care. A similar bill was introduced in the House last year.
Providers across the country are pushing to pare back some telehealth restrictions. Last year, Texas passed a bill that allows doctors to provide remote care without a prior in-person visit. The Department of Veterans Affairs is pursuing a rule that would allow its providers to practice telehealth anywhere, regardless of state laws.
Demand for telehealth is increasing. Benefits include convenience, improved patient access and high patient satisfaction. In a recent Foley & Lardner survey, three-fourths of healthcare organizations said they offered or planned to offer telemedicine services. This is a big change from the company's 2014 inaugural study when 87% of respondents did not think patients would be using virtual care as of the past year.
Not only have patients accepted telehealth, many consider it a selling point when shopping for a doctor. According to an American Well survey released early last year, 20% of consumers would switch primary care physicians to gain access to virtual care services.
Telehealth has proven especially valuable in expanding access in underserved areas. A University of Iowa study published last month found a six-fold speed up in time patients were seen by rural hospitals with emergency departments that use telemedicine versus hospitals that don’t have that option.