Legislation to extend medical liability protections to volunteer clinicians working at community health centers was reintroduced (PDF) recently. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) introduced the measure previously offered in the last Congress as a way to encourage physicians to provide care at the clinics that serve about 20 million low-income uninsured and underinsured patients.
Bill to extend med-mal protections to health center volunteers reintroduced
"This bill addresses a critical shortage of care and allows doctors to volunteer their time and expertise and removes barriers to care for millions of Americans," Murphy said in a news release issued Wednesday.
The bill would give such physicians, who currently have to purchase their own malpractice insurance to cover their volunteer work, the same civil-lawsuit protections that are available to employees of the Public Health Service. The bill would authorize the federal government to pay any successful malpractice claims for volunteer care provided by such clinicians.
"So many qualified individuals want to volunteer their time but are afraid to do so because they do not have federal tort claims protection, and the Government Accountability Office has found that doctors and nurses choose not to volunteer their skills at community health centers because medical liability insurance is too costly for individuals to purchase on their own," Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), a cosponsor, said in a separate news release.
Among the organizations endorsing the bill are the National Association of Community Health Centers and the American Medical Association.
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