by Krystal E. Knight, MPH
Wonderful news from the House of Representatives: last Thursday, the House passed H.R.1745—the Family Health Care Accessibility Act (also known as the “FTCA for Volunteers” bill) overwhelmingly in a bipartisan 417-1 vote!
“FTCA for Volunteers” would extend Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) coverage to volunteer health professionals at Section 330-funded health centers. This would allow volunteer providers to offer their services at health centers without having to purchase very costly gap coverage. With such protections in place, more providers would be likely to volunteer at health centers, thus providing greater access to affordable, high-quality primary care.
“FTCA for Volunteers” was first introduced in the House by Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) in 2002. Thanks to Congressman Murphy’s dedication to this issue, as well as that of the lead Democrat on the bill, Congressman Gene Green (D-TX), the bill has actually passed the House as part of larger legislation on two previous occasions. In 2008, FTCA for Volunteers was a part of the Health Care Safety Net Act (the Health Centers program reauthorization) and then last July the provision was made a part of the House-passed version of the Health Reform law. Unfortunately, on both occasions, due to process issues, the bill did not become law.
Thursday’s vote does represent the first time the bill has had an up-or-down vote on its own in the House, and the virtually unanimous support it received is a tribute to the grassroots advocacy of health centers across the country. Thank you to all of our grassroots advocates for taking the time to contact their Representatives, educate them on the importance of “FTCA for Volunteers,” and encourage them to vote for passage! NACHC is also grateful to both Congressman Murphy and Congressman Green for their leadership in championing this bill (read NACHC’s press release here).
Even as we celebrate this victory in the House, NACHC is continuing efforts in the Senate. Over the next few weeks, NACHC will continue to meet with members of the Senate HELP Committee and educate them on the importance of getting “FTCA for Volunteers” on the Senate floor. Stay tuned as we continue to update you on our progress!