U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) today introduced the Help Expand Liability Protections (HELP) for Volunteers Act. This bipartisan legislation would permanently extend the Public Health Service Act’s health care professional liability coverage to health professional volunteers at Community Health Centers (CHCs).
“Community Health Centers provide crucial medical care to underserved areas throughout the country, especially in rural states like South Dakota where patients may travel long distances to receive care,” said Thune. “Our bill would ensure that qualified health professionals are able to continue to donate their time and services to underserved areas without the financial burden of providing their own medical malpractice coverage.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how vital it is to invest in America’s health care system,” said Casey. “Community Health Centers provide accessible health care to vulnerable populations and in rural communities, and they need every tool possible to recruit providers and bolster services. This bill will permanently remove the barriers that many health care providers face when volunteering their time and services at Community Health Centers and strengthen the health care network overall.”
“The ongoing pandemic has put health center staff under enormous strain the past two years,” said Joe Dunn, senior vice president for public policy and research at the National Association of Community Health Centers. “Thankfully, many health centers have taken advantage of a program, first authored by Senators Thune and Casey, that leverages volunteer health professionals in their communities. NACHC appreciates their continued bipartisan leadership to extend this program and allow health centers to continue to tap into experienced volunteers to provide high-quality care to their patients.”
In 2016, Thune and Casey’s Family Health Care Accessibility Act, legislation to extend health care professional liability coverage to health professional volunteers at CHCs, was included in the 21st Century Cures Act and signed into law. However, the liability coverage for health professional volunteers is set to expire on September 30, 2022, and the HELP for Volunteers Act would permanently extend this coverage.