Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NEW BILL TO BRING $8 MILLION IN FREE HEALTH CARE TO POOR WEST VIRGINIANS
COMMON-SENSE BILL PROTECTING HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WHO DONATE CARE TO POOR PATIENTS PASSES LEGISLATURE
Low-income patients in West Virginia may soon benefit from an estimated $8 million and 14,000 visits a year in free health care donated by local health professionals thanks to a new “Volunteer Care” bill that just passed the state Legislature. The bill is modeled after a Florida program that has been responsible for bringing nearly $1.3 billion of free care to poor individuals in their state. The Foundation for Government Accountability thanks bill sponsor, Senator Ed Gaunch, for his leadership in this effort.
SB 658 is designed to improve access to care by incentivizing providers to donate their time and talents serving low-income, uninsured, and underinsured patients by offering modest credits towards their license renewal. The program will also protect those doctors, nurses, dentists, mental health providers, and more by shielding them from lawsuits while they provide free care, unless they are grossly negligent or commit willful misconduct.
By providing common-sense liability protections for medical professionals who voluntarily serve those in need and allowing these professionals to claim continuing education hours for time donated, we can help ensure that more of our friends and neighbors receive high-quality medical care. The idea is such a clear win-win for the state that it passed both the Senate and the House unanimously.
“We’re so thankful the Legislature unanimously supported this common-sense approach to helping underserved West Virginians get access to the care they need while providing a shield for the state’s Good Samaritans, the health care professionals who go out of their way to offer free care and supplies to low-income patients,” said Andrew Brown, senior fellow with FGA.
“Hopefully Gov. Earl Tomblin will share the Legislature’s enthusiasm to bring the Volunteer Care program to West Virginia and sign this bill in to law.”
The bill has had a lot of support in the Legislature to secure its easy passage, with the Health Chairs in both chambers, Del. Joe Ellington and Sen. Ryan Ferns, as well as Del. Jill Upson, Del. Eric Householder, and Del. John O’Neal all pitching in.
The bill should land on Gov. Tomblin’s desk in the next few weeks and will hopefully be signed into law.