Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) today introduced legislation to remove barriers currently preventing health care professionals from volunteering their services at cost-effective, high quality primary and preventative health care facilities, known as Community Health Centers (CHCs). The Family Health Care Accessibility Act would amend the Public Health Service Act to provide Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) medical malpractice coverage to all qualified health care professionals who volunteer at CHCs.
“Community Health Centers provide crucial medical care to underserved areas throughout the country, especially in rural states like South Dakota where patients must travel long distances for care,” said Thune. “Unfortunately, due to the exorbitant cost of medical malpractice coverage, there are approximately 60 million Americans who continue to live in communities without access to routine care. Our bipartisan legislation will ensure that qualified medical professionals are able to donate their time and services to underserved areas, increasing our communities’ access to health care services and lowering health care costs.”
“Community health centers provide needed health care and provide significant cost savings,” said Casey. “This federal roadblock must be removed so that licensed health professionals can volunteer their time to serve patients in medically underserved rural and urban locations. I am glad to be working with Senator Thune to improve access to care and health care costs.”
Currently, CHC employees, contractors, and board members receive medical malpractice coverage through the FTCA, but doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals seeking to volunteer their services at CHCs are required to provide their own medical malpractice coverage, which is extremely costly.
Thune and Casey’s bill 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.
Original cosponsors of this bill include Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). The Family Health Care Accessibility Act has received the endorsements of the American Medical Association, the National Association of Community Health Centers, the American Osteopathic Association, Primary Care Progress, and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
The Family Health Care Accessibility Act passed with overwhelming support (417-1) in the House of Representatives during the last session of Congress and has been reintroduced this session by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Raymond Green (D-Texas), with 21 cosponsors.