U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) today reintroduced the Family Health Care Accessibility Act, 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.
“Millions of Americans rely on Community Health Centers to provide crucial medical care to underserved areas,” said Thune. “It’s especially true in states like South Dakota where patients – many who live in rural communities – must travel great distances for routine care. Our bill breaks down some of the barriers faced by medical professionals, including the excessive cost of medical malpractice coverage, which will make it easier for them to donate their time and services to these underserved areas. Doing so may increase access for some 60 million Americans who depend on these Community Health Centers for care.”
“Community Health Centers play a vital role in ensuring some of our most vulnerable citizens have access to care,” said Casey. “This bill will help remove barriers that physicians and other health care providers currently face when volunteering their time and services at Community Health Centers around their neighborhoods and cities.”
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.
The Family Health Care Accessibility Act passed with overwhelming support (417-1) in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 112th Congress.