Covering Doctors Who Want to Help

In 2005, a Community Health Center from Fremont, Ohio gathered $20,000 worth of supplies and volunteer doctors and prepared to travel to Biloxi, Mississippi to aid victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  When these doctors are practicing in Ohio, they receive federal liability coverage to serve low-income and needy populations.  So, you can imagine their surprise to learn that, in a federal disaster, they received no liability coverage to aid the Hurricane victims.

My office contacted the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and liability coverage was extended to our Health Center in September and the doctors traveled to Biloxi.  Unfortunately, when the doctors attempted to return to Mississippi in January of last year, they were again denied coverage.  After the incidents with Fremont's Community Health Services, it has become clear to me that Congress needs to provide additional authority to HHS so people in disaster areas receive the aid they need at the time they need it.

So, yesterday I joined with Reps. Dianne DeGette (D-Colo.) and Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) in introducing bipartisan legislation (H.R. 870) that would provide liability insurance to community health center employees who are providing services in an emergency area.  Our legislation does not expand coverage but allows Community Health Center employees to take their coverage into federally declared disaster areas.

Every American is aware of the high cost of healthcare and liability insurance.  But denying adequate medical care to hurricane victims because insurance has not been extended only compounds the tragedy.  After these disasters, our volunteers should not be denied the opportunity to use their expertise for the benefit of the most in need.