Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 1745, the Family Health Care Accessibility Act. The bill is authored by my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Murphy of Pennsylvania and Mr. Green of Texas, and obviously it enjoys strong bipartisan support.
The bill would provide liability protections for health care workers who volunteer to work at community health centers. Very similar protections are already provided for the employees and contractors of such centers. The bill, as introduced, would have provided such protection only to physicians and psychologists, but the committee adopted an amendment that expanded coverage to all health care workers who are volunteers at CHCs so long as they are working within their appropriate scope of practice
and licensure and are performing work that is appropriate to the center.
CBO has estimated that the bill will not affect mandatory spending or revenue and is not subject to the PAYGO rules. Versions of this legislation have passed in the House in previous years, so I hope this bill will become law.
Again, I want to thank Mr. Murphy and Mr. Green for all their hard work on this legislation. As well, I want to express my appreciation to our minority leaders on health legislation in the committee, Mr. Shimkus and Mr. Barton, for their support and commitment in getting this bill to the floor.
I urge my colleagues to support the bill.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. WHITFIELD. I also want to thank Mr. Green of Texas and Mr. Murphy for their leadership on this issue.
All of us recognize the importance of community health centers. They are spreading throughout the country and they are playing an important role in providing primary health care for the American people.
At this time I would like to yield 5 minutes to one of the real leaders in this area, Mr. Murphy of Pennsylvania.
Mr. TIM MURPHY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, community health centers provide a neighborhood medical home that is both high quality and lower cost. They are more than just a doctor's office; they are a place where a child can see a pediatrician and an adult can see an internist. You can get dental care, mental health services, or prenatal care. You can go there when you are getting a cold instead of running up big costs at an emergency room.
The doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals are under one roof; and they coordinate your care, working as a team for your family's health in a one-stop wellness center, and the costs per patient are far, far below the costs one would pay if you went to a hospital or private practice. That coordinated effort saves a lot of money through preventative care, keeping you up with immunizations and providing quality medical intervention when you need it at one of these
1,250 nonprofit community health centers.
In our Nation's $2.4 trillion health care system, the community health centers are credited with saving nearly $25 billion each year. Families save money and Medicaid saves money. On average, a person using a community health center saves $1,100 per year on health care costs, according to a recent study by George Washington University. That's the good news. The sad news is that there is a serious shortage of health care providers at these centers, and no matter now great the center, if there
are long delays because of the shortage, then health care delayed is health care denied.
Health centers located in medically underserved urban or rural areas report a 27 percent shortage of dentists, a 26 percent shortage of OB/GYNs that could be providing prenatal care, and a 13 percent shortage of family physicians. The centers simply do not have enough money to hire the additional staff required to cover the growing patient needs, but there is an answer.
Many health professionals, especially part-time workers or highly qualified, semi-retired medical providers are willing and able, but not allowed to do so. That's right. They want to volunteer their time, but they cannot. They cannot because the centers are not able to cover the costs of medical liability insurance for the doctors and nurses.
Medical liability insurance can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and, in some cases, well over $100,000 per year per doctor, and the clinics simply cannot cover that expense. Here's why: Practitioners employed by the community health centers are covered by the Federal Torts Claim Act, which extends Federal liability protection to those volunteer doctors. Oddly enough, the opposite applies at free clinics, where volunteers are covered by the FTCA, while those who are employed at free clinics
are not covered.
The Congressional Budget Office said that medical liability insurance costs pose a ``significant barrier'' for many providers who otherwise would be eager to volunteer at health centers. This bill, H.R. 1745, fixes this disparity and opens the door for volunteer providers at clinics all over America. This bill, which I introduced with Representative Gene Green, will eliminate the barriers for millions of patients seeking care in these neighborhood health care homes and will allow thousands
of practitioners to volunteer their expertise for high-quality, low-cost patient care.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost of this bill could be as little as $5 million a year for 5 years, and, in return, the clinics receive hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free health care services for those living in underserved communities. And because this funding is part of the health centers program's annual appropriations, this funding is not a scored cost. The dedicated health center fund means that the slight additional cost to the FTCA program will require
no new appropriations. I repeat: The slight additional cost will require no new annual appropriations.
I am grateful for the support of my colleagues--Representative Gene Green, Frank Pallone, John Shimkus, Phil Gingrey, Ranking Member Joe Barton, and Chairman Henry Waxman--for working with me on this legislation, and also my staff--Brad Grantz and Susan Mosychuk.
Mr. Speaker, we in Congress have a chance to do something to expand care to millions of Americans with this act without raising the health care bills for families. This is an example of real bipartisan reform that helps people get the health care they need when they need it close to home at an affordable cost. Isn't that what we all want with health care?
So let's say ``yes'' to community health centers, ``yes'' to families, ``yes'' to doctors who want to volunteer their care, ``yes'' to affordable and accessible care to millions of families, and please say ``yes'' to H.R. 1745, the Family Health Care Accessibility Act.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to my colleague from Texas, Representative Green. But before I do that, let me just [Page: H6850]
say that he has been an outstanding leader on community health centers. He sponsored the bill that reauthorized the community health centers, and he is always looking out for ways to improve what goes on there.
Mr. WHITFIELD. Mr. Speaker, I think all of our speakers have explained very clearly why we need to support this legislation. I urge all of our Members to support it.
I yield back the balance of my time.