Greater access to health care in rural areas is the goal of several bills proposed by Nebraska senators.Among them is LB 61, proposed by Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, which would enhance health care options by establishing an interstate medical licensing compact.
Under the bill, Nebraska would join an already existing compact with 18 other states. The compact allows a physician in a member state who meets certain requirements to receive an expedited medical license in another member state.
Participation in the compact could increase telehealth opportunities in Nebraska, according to Jeanne McClure of CHI Health, who testified in favor of the bill.
Telehealth and telemedicine refers to telecommunications, connecting patients with medical providers by smart phone or computer.
Because more out-of-state physicians could provide services through telemedicine under Kolterman's bill, it would likely increase access to health care in rural and underserved areas that lack medical care, proponents said.
The hearing on the bill was on Jan. 19, but no immediate action was taken.
Kolterman also introduced a bill (LB 92) that would require health insurance carriers to provide coverage for telehealth services.
In rural areas where the closest hospital or medical center can be hours away, telemedicine can provide an alternative option so residents can see a health professional via video conferencing. Many states require insurance coverage for telemedicine services, including Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Under another bill -- LB 407, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing-Brooks -- a Whiteclay Public Health Emergency Task Force would be established to seek public health solutions in the tiny town in northwestern corner of Nebraska.
Among ideas Pansing-Brooks has suggested is bringing telemedicine to Whiteclay and the Pine Ridge Reservation, specifically for substance abuse and mental health purposes.