Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the senior Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced legislation that would allow physicians and other medical professionals to volunteer their services at charity clinics and community health centers free from medical liability concerns.
Provisions under the so-called Volunteer Health Care Program Act of 2008 effectively allow providers to become agents of the state, which then means that the state assumes the liability risk and covers the cost of defense. The bill would also provide grant money to states that accept this arrangement.
There is an overwhelming need for volunteer medical care among the poor in the United States, but medical liability concerns discourage doctors from providing voluntary services, Enzi said in a written statement. This bill will protect doctors who want to give back to their communities, and will help provide access for the patients who need their care.
The federal legislation is patterned after a Florida program, which typically costs about $900,000 per year but has returned more than $1 billion in charity care over 16 years and counts more than 20,000 physician volunteers. -- by Matthew DoBias