Bipartisan Legislation Would Expand Use of Volunteer Health Professionals at Community Health Centers
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) is lauding bipartisan legislation that aims to remove barriers that prevent health professionals from volunteering their services at Community Health Centers. The Family Health Care Accessibility Act (S. 955) introduced by U.S. Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Bob Casey (D-PA) would amend the Public Health Service Act to extend Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) medical malpractice coverage to all qualified health care professionals who volunteer at health centers.
“Removing barriers for health care professionals to volunteer is very important in rural areas like South Dakota where people, often long distances from the nearest hospital, rely on CHCs for their primary health care,” said Senator Thune in a joint press release issued by their offices regarding the legislation. “Physicians are willing to help these local health centers, but are sometimes deterred by the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. Our common-sense bill would remove that barrier for qualified medical professionals and would enable thousands of people in underserved areas to receive access to high-quality medical care at a lower cost.”
“This is a commonsense solution to make it easier for highly skilled physicians to volunteer in their communities,” said Senator Casey. “When physicians are willing to volunteer their time to help a community, our government should do all it can to promote those efforts. This bill will do just that.”
“We deeply appreciate the hard work and thoughtful bipartisan leadership of Senators Thune and Casey in advancing legislation that will allow doctors and other health professionals to volunteer their skills and services at Community Health Centers, where the need for more providers is critical,” said Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Research at NACHC. “Their efforts, and the support of their colleagues, will help with the recruitment of health professionals to medically underserved communities which face a great need for health professionals to keep pace with the current and future demand for primary and preventive health care services.”
Health center employees, contractors, and board members receive medical malpractice coverage through the FTCA, but doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals who wish to volunteer their services at health centers are required to provide their own medical malpractice coverage, which is extremely costly. The Family Health Care Accessibility Act (S. 955) would be paid for with existing funds under the Health Centers’ annual appropriations through the Department of Health and Human Services and would not require additional funding.
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