Bethesda, MD – With the passage of the bipartisan continuing resolution, NACHC is pleased that Congress has decided to permanently extend the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) coverage for Volunteer Health Professionals. This is a major victory for health centers and will ensure that qualified Volunteer Health Professionals continue to provide critical primary and preventative care at health centers in the path of natural disasters or experiencing provider shortages.
“On behalf of Community Health Centers and the 30 million patients they serve, I want to thank Senator John Thune, Senator Bob Casey, and Representative John Curtis for their work to spearhead this important legislation,” said Rachel Gonzales-Hanson, Interim President and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “This program enables health centers to leverage volunteer clinicians in their communities to enhance care for patients.”
For decades, Community Health Centers have enjoyed long-standing bipartisan support as a solution to our country’s primary care access problems. This support has led to incredible growth in the program, which now serves over 30 million patients.
Health centers have experienced chronic workforce shortages for years due to retirements, salary gaps, burnout, and lack of providers. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem and placed an incredible strain on health centers, which report high rates of attrition among staff. FTCA coverage for Volunteer Health Professionals is essential for health centers to continue their work in responding to public health challenges on the frontlines.
The FTCA for Volunteer Health Professionals program was established in the 21st Century Cures Act and has enabled hundreds of volunteer primary care, behavioral health, and dental clinicians to lend their time and expertise to health centers nationwide. Importantly, no tort claims have been filed against a Volunteer Health Professional enrolled in the program. Credentialed and licensed volunteers undergo a rigorous vetting process and provide various essential services, including COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, school immunizations, homeless and migrant camp outreach, and behavioral health services. The program allows certified medical professionals to volunteer in places that desperately need help during disaster events.
Continuing this program was one of the key legislative items for NACHC in 2022. Legislation extending the program was sponsored by Senator John Thune (R-SD), Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), and Representative John Curtis (R-UT) (S. 3569 / H.R. 5583). Provisions were also included in bills that passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
About the National Association of Community Health Centers
Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the leading national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured.