Bill Giving Malpractice Coverage To Doctors Volunteering In Community Health Centers Faces Stiff Senate Resistance

The Hill: A bill aimed to appeal to physicians to work in medically underserved areas by shielding them from paying for malpractice coverage is facing stiff opposition. "The bill, passed Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee, would offer free malpractice coverage to doctors volunteering at community health centers (CHCs) — private facilities receiving federal funds to treat patients where care is lacking." Similar bills have passed the House twice before, but they have died in the Senate because of reluctance to irk trial lawyers, who oppose such moves and who have been major supporters of Democratic campaigns. The bill would expand the Federal Tort Claims Act to cover malpractice costs for community health center volunteers as well as employees — as it currently does now. "Supporters say the impasse is unfortunate, arguing that an expansion of malpractice coverage to include volunteers would prove a powerful tool for recruiting physicians to treat some of the most vulnerable folks in the country." Many retired or semi-retired physicians would like to volunteer at the centers, but are unlikely to do so over malpractice fears (Lillis, 7/24).

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