Hoeven, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Encourage Volunteers at Community Health Centers

Measure Encourages Health Care Volunteers to Serve in Rural, Underserved Areas

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven joined Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in supporting the Family Health Care Accessibility Act. The legislation is designed to remove barriers currently preventing health care professionals from volunteering their services at cost-effective, high-quality primary and preventative health care facilities, known as Community Health Centers (CHCs). The Family Health Care Accessibility Act would provide medical malpractice coverage to all qualified health care professionals who volunteer at CHCs.

The legislation would be paid for with existing funds under the health centers’ annual appropriations through the Department of Health and Human Services and would not require additional funding.

“There are currently five federally-supported Community Health Centers with 14 service sites across North Dakota that together provide care to over 34,000 patients in rural, underserved areas,” Hoeven said. “At no additional cost, we can help to encourage doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to give their time and expertise to these patients by covering the cost of medical malpractice insurance.”

Currently, CHC employees, contractors, and board members receive medical malpractice coverage through the Federal Tort Claims Act, but doctors, dentists and other health care professionals seeking to volunteer their services at CHCs are required to provide their own medical malpractice coverage, which is extremely costly.

The senators’ legislation would extend Community Health Center’s current medical malpractice protection under the Federal Tort Claims Act to include health-care professionals who volunteer their time to serve at a CHC. For a volunteer to be covered by this liability protection, the Department of Health and Human Services must approve the CHCs application to sponsor the volunteer.