Reps. Gene Green, Murphy Push for Affordable Health Care Access for Underinsured
March 27, 2009
Washington, DC - Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Gene Green (D-TX) this week introduced H.R. 1745, The Family Health Care Act of 2009 which will help address the shortage of health care providers in underserved communities by creating opportunities and providing reasonable medical malpractice insurance for physician volunteers at community health centers
“As the demand for affordable health care across the country grow, it is imperative that we address the health professional shortage to ensure all individuals have access to primary health care,” said Green. “The Family Health Care Act is an important step towards improving the quality of care and lowering overall health care costs across the board.”
There is a growing shortage of health care professionals in underserved communities where community health centers are located. It is estimated that to keep up with the high demand, health centers must double their workforce to 12,000. Community health centers provide primary health care to more than 16 million people annually, in over 6,000 communities.
“There is currently a staffing crisis at community health centers with a 13 percent vacancy rate for family physicians, a 20 percent vacancy rate for OB/GYNs, and a 22 percent vacancy rate for psychiatrists. Such vacancy rates jeopardize the amount of care available to the uninsured and underinsured,” said Rep. Murphy. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to remove barriers making it easier for doctors to volunteer and give families a healthcare home.”
All medical professionals, including those employed by community health centers are covered under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Volunteers at free clinics currently have malpractice coverage under several laws. However, volunteer physicians at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are excluded from FTCA and have fewer options for coverage, hindering their ability to volunteer.
“Many doctors want to volunteer their time and help families in their communities,” said Murphy. “Barriers need to be removed to make it easier for doctors to share their skills at community health centers. Centers should not have to turn away volunteers. Instead, they should be able to concentrate on providing an affordable way for families to receive the care they need.”
Previously, this legislation was passed in the House and included in the reauthorization of the Community Health Center program, but was reduced to a GAO study. It is estimated that current coverage saves health centers nearly $200 million in annual insurance premiums, money that is better spent on expanding health care services to additional underserved and uninsured individuals.
“At a time when many Americans are losing their jobs and their employee sponsored health insurance, community health centers are increasingly becoming vital – in their communities,” said Green. “This is why the Family Health Care Accessibility Act is necessary - health centers should not have to worry about increased risks because they allow much needed volunteers at their centers. We should be helping health center recruit more providers, especially volunteers.”
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