TOPEKA — New federal legislation to make pandemic-based telehealth allowances permanent has researchers, broadband advocates and lawmakers talking about the importance of bridging the digital divide in rural Kansas.
The Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act championed by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), alongside Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), is aimed at ensuring “rural and underserved” health care providers can offer telehealth services after the pandemic. Services would include audio-only telehealth appointments, acknowledging many rural areas lack reliable broadband.
Changes would include allowing payment-parity for audio-only health services, waive any restrictions to allow patients to be treated from home and permanently allow rural health clinics and qualified health centers to serve as distance sites for telehealth services.