Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Bob Casey (D-PA) last week introduced S. 955, the Family Health Care Accessibility Act of 2013. This legislation would reduce unmet primary care need in communities by encouraging licensed practitioners to volunteer at Community Health Centers. With 60 million Americans lacking access to care, this legislation is a no-cost solution that would allow Health Centers to keep up with the increasing and overwhelming demand for services.
Currently, CHC employees, contractors and board members receive medical malpractice protection under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). However, licensed health care professionals seeking to volunteer their services at a CHC must provide their own independent medical malpractice coverage, sometimes at a cost of more than $100,000 per year. This has proven to be a significant hurdle to volunteerism at CHCs.
S. 955 seeks to resolve this workforce barrier by enabling licensed health professionals to volunteer their services to meet critical provider need by removing the cost prohibitive barrier of providing their own medical malpractice coverage. Specifically, the legislation would amend the Public Health Service Act to extend FTCA malpractice coverage to qualified licensed health care practitioners who volunteer at Section 330-funded health centers.
We applaud the leadership and continued support of Senators Thune and Casey on this very important issue for health centers. NACHC’s press release on the Family Health Care Accessibility Act of 2013 can be viewed here. The Dear Colleague letter being circulated by Senators Thune and Casey can be viewed here. This legislation passed in the House of Representatives during the 111th Congress by a vote of 417-1 and there is strong bipartisan support for the legislation. We encourage health center advocates to contact their Senators and ask them to show their support by becoming a cosponsor of S. 955.