Thune proposal provides permanent malpractice coverage for local health volunteers

A bipartisan bill recently introduced by U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) would permanently extend a federal program that provides liability protections for volunteer practitioners at local health centers. 

“Our bill would ensure that qualified health professionals are able to continue to donate their time and services to underserved areas without the financial burden of providing their own medical malpractice coverage,” Sen. Thune said last week. 

The Help Expand Liability Protections (HELP) for Volunteers Act, S. 3569, which Sen. Thune sponsored on Feb. 3 with cosponsor U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), would permanently extend the Public Health Service Act’s healthcare professional liability coverage to health professional volunteers at Community Health Centers (CHCs).

Community Health Centers, said Sen. Thune, “provide crucial medical care to underserved areas throughout the country, especially in rural states like South Dakota where patients may travel long distances to receive care.”

The liability coverage for health professional volunteers is set to expire on Sept. 30 without congressional approval of an extension. 

“This bill will permanently remove the barriers that many healthcare providers face when volunteering their time and services at Community Health Centers and strengthen the healthcare network overall,” added Sen. Casey.

S. 3569 is supported by Joe Dunn, senior vice president for public policy and research at the National Association of Community Health Centers, an organization that he said appreciates the continued bipartisan leadership of Sens. Thune and Casey “to extend this program and allow health centers to continue to tap into experienced volunteers to provide high-quality care to their patients.”