When the next disaster stikes, the last thing America needs is red tape. That’s why U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-OH) has introduced a bill that cuts the bureaucratic snafus that hamstrung Community Heatlh Center efforts to send help in Katrina’s disaster zone. Gillmor’s bipartisan bill (Dems Dianna DeGette of Colorado and Gene Taylor of Mississippi are cosponsors) would provide liability insurance to health center employees who are providing services in an emergency area. Gillmor got involved after a health center in Fremont, Ohio was initially denied liability insurance to aid Hurricane Katrina victims in an incident that generated local and national headlines.
“Community Health Centers receive federal liability coverage to serve low-income and needy populations in the state in which they practice. If a center tries to volunteer during a disaster, the employees must apply for extended coverage from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),” Gillmor explained in a press release issued by his office. “Unfortunately, doctors from Community Health Services in Fremont were initially denied liability insurance when they tried to aid victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Biloxi, Mississippi in September 2005. After my office contacted HHS, Fremont’s doctors were granted federal medical insurance to practice in Mississippi. However, the same group was again denied insurance in January for a return trip to Mississippi.”
Secretary Leavitt and Rep. GillmoreGillmor also met with HHS Secretary Leavitt (see photo) and pressed him about the need to change the medical liability policy.
No one could be happier about the Gillmor bill than Joe Liszak, the CEO of Community Health Services in Fremont, whose health center’s mobile health unit was literally stopped in its tracks on the way to help out a sister health center in Biloxi, MS. who said, “If we can help the world in times of disaster by providing medical relief, we should be able to help our own people. Those who suffered the wrath of Katrina still do not have access to basic health care and need our assistance. Congressman Gillmor has demonstrated great leadership and persistence in introducing this legislation which is critical to our nation’s public health especially in times of national disaster.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The Community Health Centers Bill will be sent to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for debate before it can be considered on the House floor.