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 (S. 955) 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.
“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 Thune. “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 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.”
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 has received the endorsement of the National Association of Community Health Centers.