A bipartisan group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives has re-introduced a piece of legislation that aims to protect healthcare workers from lawsuits related to the pandemic.
Under the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act, healthcare professionals would not be liable for harm caused by care or withholding services due to the pandemic. This includes providers practicing outside of their normal area or with a lack of resources "attributable to the pandemic."
"If communities shut down physicians offices or reschedule elective surgeries, that causes adverse health outcomes in patients beyond a physician's control," said Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association.
During the pandemic, many physicians had to limit their services in order to follow government guidelines related to the pandemic, including policies regarding shelter-in-place and restricted elective procedures.
Bailey said the constant shift in directives put physicians at greater risk for "frivolous lawsuits causing emotional stress and financial burdens."
This latest bill is the most recent effort by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) to push forward legislation expanding protections for providers at risk of costly lawsuits during the public health emergency. His first attempt failed to pass the House in May 2020. More than 100 state and national medical organizations supported the bill.
The Medical Professional Liability Organization released a statement saying that this "targeted civil liability protection" will recognize the continued sacrifices healthcare personnel have made throughout the year.
Federal protections already exist under President Donald Trump's CARES Act and the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997. However, immunity has been broadened to providers administering countermeasures such as antiviral drugs and vaccines.
Experts say not enough data is available to determine whether the recent public health emergency has sparked a notable rise in medical liability lawsuits, but more than 30% of reported premiums for medical liability coverage have increased over the last year, according to an analysis by AMA.