Kansas’s Telemedicine Bill Becomes Law With Governor’s Signature
Kansas has hopped on the telemedicine train. In May, Governor Jeff Colyer signed a recently passed bill that mandates some coverage for telemedicine, though there are restrictions in the new language. In certain areas, Kansas’s law is more restrictive than just about any in the nation with language that requires for nullification of the entire bill if specific areas are struck down by state courts.
Coverage Parity But No Payment Parity
The new law does require that payers cover telemedicine as they would in-person services when it is medically necessary or appropriate. What it doesn’t do is mandate payment parity. This means that insurers can set their own rates for telemedicine reimbursement, which could equate to either higher or lower payment than in-person services. Odd are, it will vary considerably by payer. Some payers could decide to reimburse for telemedicine services commensurate to in-person treatment, but there is no guarantee of this for contracted providers, facilities or health systems.
Additional Medicaid Coverage
The law as written focuses mainly on medical services, but it will expand to additional allied health specialties through Medicaid coverage beginning in 2019. Eventually, audiology and speech language pathology coverage will also be mandated.
Establish Care Via Telemedicine
One of the most important provisions of the new law is that it is now acceptable for providers to establish care with new patients without an in-person evaluation. It is unclear at this time whether providers can prescribe medications to patients who were not evaluated in person. In other states, controlled substance prescribing is allowed while some only permit non-controlled prescribing. Some outlaw prescribing via telemedicine outright. Prescribing laws have not been established, but the Board of Medicine has been instructed to complete these provisions by the end of 2018.
Real Time Or Asynchronous
The Kansas law covers real-time video telemedicine, as most state laws do, but it also requires insurers to cover asynchronous communication through telemedicine. Asynchronous (also called store-and-forward) telemedicine includes the collection of telemedicine data for later review by a physician or appropriate healthcare provider. This could mean that images, x-rays, recorded video or other non-real-time healthcare information is provided to the physician who reviews at a later time and provides a diagnosis or opinion on the information provided. It is an especially important tool for remote radiology and image review, but it has implications in pediatrics, dermatology, ophthalmology, psychiatry and many other specialties.
Abortion Ban Could Undo The Whole Law
The most controversial aspect of the law is language related to abortion services provided via telemedicine. The law specifically indicates that telemedicine cannot be used for remote consultation related to abortion, and the law goes even further to indicate that, should a court strike down the provision regarding abortion services, the entire law will be null and void. This controversial language created some significant conflict during the process.
The Future of Healthcare for Kansas
Though the bill has been fraught with controversy since its earliest phases, it is now law and does provide increased access to many important treatments for residents of Kansas. Rural communities could substantially benefit from the remote services, and the provider shortage can be bridged by more efficient staffing and additional hours without brick and mortar locations. There are many possibilities of how this can improve treatment throughout the state. For more information on how you can implement telemedicine into your practice, request a demo above and one of our workflow specialists can design a customized plan for our organization.