Relief in Sight for Federally Qualified Health Centers

John Commins, December 11, 2013

Because of medical liability concerns, federally qualified health centers have been mostly unable to tap into the good will of local clinicians who want to volunteer their medical services. Pending legislation may turn that around.

The nation's 1,200 health centers and the approximately 22 million patients they serve may soon benefit from legislation under consideration in Washington, DC, that is so commonsensical and cost-effective that even the current incarnation of Congress, arguably the worst ever, probably won't screw it up.

Because of medical liability concerns, federally qualified health centers have been mostly unable to tap into the good will of local clinicians who want to volunteer their medical services. Staff clinicians at FQHCs fall under the Federal Torts Claim Act. Volunteer clinicians do not and the cost of medical liability insurance is prohibitively expensive.

The Family Health Care Accessibility Act of 2013 (H.R. 2703) would extend FTCA protections to all clinicians practicing in FQHCs. If the bill becomes law, it has the potential to provide immediate and substantive relief for FQHC clinicians while improving access to care for vulnerable populations.

More clinicians means more volume and maybe keeping the doors open a little longer at these clinics just as the nation is poised to expand the Medicaid roles and millions of Americans gain some sort of coverage through the health insurance exchanges.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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