TOPEKA — The House struggled through debate on Kansas abortion law Thursday before unanimously passing legislation requiring insurance companies to cover telemedicine services in the same manner as in-person care.
Telemedicine reforms addressed by House Bill 2674 would include work of physicians or licensed mental health professionals engaged in assessment, diagnosis, consulting, treatment, education and management of patient care.
“Telehealth legislation is a way rural areas of Kansas, even urban areas of Kansas, can gain access to specialty care,” said Rep. Jim Kelly, R-Independence. “The telemedicine bill is extremely important.”
The House Health and Human Services Committee inserted in the bill a specific prohibition on abortion services by two-way audio-visual communications. That complies with a 2011 state law, which was clarified in 2015.
“Telemedicine can’t be used to deliver any abortion procedure,” Kelly said.
Meanwhile, the House decided not to debate a bill creating new authority for local school boards to provide firearm safety programs in public schools. The bill would mandate the National Rifle Association’s “Eddie Eagle GunSafe” curriculum for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism would teach a hunter education program for high school students.
The legislation would have been considered in wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that left 17 people dead and 14 more in the hospital.
During the telemedicine debate, the House voted down an amendment that would create a fund to support nonprofit organizations working with women involved in crisis pregnancies. The organizations would be eligible for funding in amounts equivalent to state expenditures in defense of abortion law.
“Why don’t we put money where our mouth is?” said Rep. Tim Hodge, the North Newton Democrat who offered the amendment. “You would see more adoptions. You would see more support for people in trouble.”
The House also deflected on procedural grounds an amendment that would expand eligibility for Medicaid in Kansas to approximately 150,000 people under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m disappointed. Medicaid expansion is something we need to get to talk on and debate and vote on in the House,” said Rep. Steven Crum, R-Haysville.
Meanwhile, the House approved a bill raising the fine for second and subsequent tickets for improper passing of a stopped school bus. The current fine is $315, but House Bill 2040 would set the fine at $750 for a second offense within five years of the first ticket. The third and succeeding violation within five years of the prior convictions would cost offenders $1,000.
“It’s something we have to do because of inattentive driving,” said Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego.
The House also soundly defeated a measure offered by Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, to allow cities and counties to decide whether to reduce the criminal penalty for marijuana possession below the state’s standard.