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Sarbanes Refloats Primary Care Physician Reentry Act

 |  By John Commins  
   December 16, 2015

Malpractice Liability Protections
"We don't have an official score, but we sort of estimate that is what it would be," he says. "That is real money, but it is frankly a modest investment when you consider the kinds of returns it could generate in identifying the design and modeling of what these programs can look like."

The bill contains malpractice liability protections that provide physicians with coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

"We knew from the outset that having those protections would be critical and it turned out to be the case," Sarbanes says. "Critical not just for enlisting the support of the professional community that is in a position to take advantage of this re-entry program, but also critical for some of the politics here on the Hill. That is something I can point out to my Republican colleagues."

The bill has the support of key physician professional associations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, American Osteopathic Association, the Federation of State Medical Boards and the School-Based Health Alliance. Sarbanes says he expects the American Medical Association to voice its support once the bill is in the House pipeline.

There is no Senate co-sponsor, but Sarbanes says he's "gotten some nibbles" from the staff of several senators who've expressed an interest.

Election-Year Prospects
Next year is an election year, and Sarbanes says he's not sure if that will help or hurt his bill's prospects.

"During election years, we spend less time in Washington because people are back in their districts campaigning. So, the calendar in the election year there are fewer days in Washington. That makes it tougher," he says.

"I hope that members recognize that the public is desperate to see bipartisan collaborative efforts in D.C. because they've gotten fed up with the gridlock. Proposal like this that are common sense that we can assemble bipartisan support around are exactly the sorts of things we ought to pass to show the electorate that we working together and getting common sense measure passed. In that sense, an election year and trying to meet the expectations of the voters could help us to move this along."

Beyond that, Sarbanes says that after 50 unsuccessful attempts to repeal Obamacare, the opposition is starting to weaken.

"As that opposition wanes, there is going to be more opportunity to focus people on where we can further strengthen the ACA and fill in gaps and make refinements," Sarbanes says. "We can have those conversations in a non-threatening environment—conversations about how we can maximize some of the opportunities we were trying to create with the Affordable Care Act that will lead people to focus on some of these gaps and shortages of physicians in the system."

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


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