Protection Sought for Physicians Treating Patients in Federally Declared Disasters
On June 27, Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) and Angus King (I-ME) introduced S. 3101, the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act of 2016, demonstrating increased support on Capitol Hill for legislation that has been a longtime priority for physicians and their medical professional liability carriers. The bill provides civil liability protection to licensed health-care professionals who volunteer their time and talent to treat victims of federally declared disasters. The bill applies protections only to those treating disaster victims after a state has requested a federal disaster declaration. Such a declaration ensures that the protection of current state medical liability systems remains in effect until the declaration expires.
Senator Cassidy has proven leadership on this issue and is recognized and appreciated as a gastroenterologist with personal experience following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He led the effort to convert an abandoned KMart store into an emergency medical facility so disaster victims could have access to medical volunteers in their greatest time of need.
The proposed bill S. 3101 is identical to H.R. 865, the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act, which was introduced on February 11, 2015, by Representative Marsha Blackburn (RTN) and David Scott (D-GA). To date, the number of bipartisan cosponsors has grown to 47. Physicians Insurance is currently engaged in a lobbying effort to secure bipartisan support from our congressional delegations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
Advocacy works! Since Physicians Insurance’s participation in the PIAA’s Annual Fly-In in Washington, DC, in May to meet with several members of Congress, five new bipartisan cosponsors endorsed H.R. 865, and S. 3101 was introduced in the Senate. The PIAA is the leading national insurance trade association in the medical professional liability arena that advocates on federal and state, regulatory, legislative, and NAIC issues.
Anne Bryant, Physicians Insurance’s Senior Director of Government Relations, is the newly elected Chair of the PIAA’s Government Relations Committee. For more information, visit: piaa.us.
For more information on H.R. 865, visit congress.gov/bill/114thcongress/ house-bill/865.
Physicians Insurance is proud to promote and support the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act of 2016. In times of crisis, such as natural disasters—earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides (including the recent Oso [WA] landslide), wildfires, periodic floods, and other tragedies in the Northwest—as well as senseless acts of terrorism, it is vital that patients across the nation have timely access to quality medical resources.
Unfortunately, current federal law does not provide adequate protections to health-care providers who spontaneously volunteer their medical services during calamities, nor does it protect those volunteers who cross state lines. Further, many state laws that aim to encourage medical volunteerism are ambiguous and inconsistent, especially when applied to catastrophic disasters. This forces medical volunteers to limit services or generally decline participation. The 9/11 Commission Report and the model Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act of 2007 cite examples of health-care volunteers who were deterred or who delayed offering assistance due to liability and licensure concerns. For more information on the 9/11 Commission Report, visit tinyurl.com/gs2z4cb.
Locally, Physicians Insurance supports and promotes free clinics, prescription drug assistance programs, and local medical societies’ Project Access programs. Our goal is to improve community health and access to care, as well as to support our many member physicians who volunteer their time to provide no-cost services to low income, underinsured, and uninsured patients in their communities. We maintain our belief that better access to quality care improves patient safety and generally reduces liability exposure for health-care professionals.
Physicians Insurance will continue to work with the PIAA and others in the health-care community to build additional bipartisan support for the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act of 2016. Our aim is to ensure that all disaster victims have timely access to quality medical care following catastrophic federally declared disasters.
If you would like to participate in our effort, please contact Anne E. Bryant, Senior Director of Government Relations at Physicians Insurance, at firstname.lastname@example.org.