Low-income South Carolinians now have new options to get the care they need thanks to FGA’s Volunteer Care Program, which was signed into law by Governor Nikki Haley earlier this month. Originally known as the Immunity from Liability for Providing Free Health Care Services bill, sets up a program that would mirror Florida’s wildly successful Volunteer Health Services program.
In Florida, the Volunteer Health Services program is an example of how innovative solutions can leverage existing medical resources to maximum effect and deliver the care needed for many of the most vulnerable. Thousands of low-income South Carolinians lack adequate access to affordable health care, but there is no shortage of physicians, dentists, and other medical professionals ready, willing and able to donate their time to care for underserved patients. This new law helps bring the two together.
The law allows charitable health care providers and dentists to fulfill one hour of their continuing education credit for two hours of gratuitous service to medically indigent persons throughout the state. In Lee and Williamsburg counties, where the per capita income is less than half of the average for the country, there are people who need access to health and dental services, but may not have the financial means or easy access to get the help they need.
By unleashing the power of private charity, low-income and underserved South Carolinians will have that access to free care from quality health providers that they have not been able to receive before.
In Florida the law has been able to secure free care for patients valued at more than $2.6 billion. Most importantly, it has done so without expanding or creating more taxpayer funded welfare programs. Now, South Carolina can benefit from this same ingenuity and provide their citizens with these benefits without it coming out of the pocket of every state taxpayer.
In 2014, medical professionals in Florida provided nearly 470,000 free visits, with the value of donated goods and services totaling nearly $298 million. The program’s low legal costs (malpractice suits are virtually nonexistent) and administrative costs mean that VHS provides $614 in privately donated care for every on dollar spent by the taxpayer.
The Palmetto State already has the generous health care providers willing to bring their services to those in need, and with Governor Nikki Haley’s signature, those doctors, nurses, and dentists can now begin reaching out to their underserved communities, providing the care that is so desperately needed.