Relates to the liability of health care practitioner volunteers.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public health law, in relation to the liability of health care practitioner volunteers
PURPOSE: This bill is intended to promote the development and expansion of volunteer health care practitioner programs throughout the state by removing the costly requirement that volunteers provide their own professional liability insurance.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: The bill amends subdivision 4 of section 260 of the public health law by removing the requirement that a volunteer health care practitioner who participates in a health care practitioner volunteer program maintain his or her own professional liability insurance policy. Under this proposal, these volunteers would be deemed "employees" under the public officers law in order to afford them the same indemnity protections as state employees.
EXISTING LAW: Current law requires volunteer health care practitioners to maintain their own professional liability insurance.
JUSTIFICATION: Created by special legislation in 2002 (Chapter 337), the Schenectady Health Care Practitioner Volunteer Project (also known as the Schenectady Free Clinic) served as a model for a statute enacted in 2008 (Chapter 225) which authorizes the Commissioner of Health to approve other such volunteer health care practitioner programs throughout the State.
In the case of the Schenectady Free Clinic, volunteer physicians, nurses and other health care professionals serve the health and wellness needs of the County's uninsured by providing free access to medical care services to persons not otherwise receiving medical care through established programs. The Clinic provides, without charge, primary medical care and referral specialty care services from a network of participating practitioners and institutions. The Clinic receives financial support from a combination of governmental, private, foundation and grant funding to cover their operating expenses. its only paid employee is the Executive Director.
Despite successful local fundraising, the Clinic continues to struggle financially. The cost of medical malpractice insurance is currently $35,000-$40,000 a year out of the Clinic's roughly $550,000 annual budget. If additional practitioners are added to the team of volunteers (many of whom are retired) the medical malpractice expenses will increase.
In over 35,000 patient visits, the Clinic and its volunteers have never been sued. Many states provide liability protection to volunteer health care providers. Notably, the State of Florida successfully encourages voluntarism on the part of health care providers to serve the medically indigent by granting these providers "sovereign immunity" for uncompensated services rendered to certain needy clients.
Granting volunteer health care practitioners protection from liability as they carry out their volunteer activities would encourage more
health care providers to volunteer their time, and help alleviate some of the financial burden on volunteer clinics such as the Schenectady Free Clinic, thereby helping to assure their continued success in service to the uninsured in the community.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: S. 7028 of 2012 remained in Health Committee. Similar language was included in Senate bill S. 7426-A of 2006.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: Unknown. To date, the sponsor is not aware of any successful claims against volunteer health practitioners operating in volunteer health care practitioner programs authorized under this section of the Public Health Law.
LOCAL FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 4351 2013-2014 Regular Sessions IN SENATE March 21, 2013 ___________Introduced by Sen. FARLEY -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Health AN ACT to amend the public health law, in relation to the liability of health care practitioner volunteers THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 4 of section 260 of the public health law, as amended by chapter 84 of the laws of 2006, is amended to read as follows: 4.
[No health care practitioner volunteer shall participate in the health care practitioner volunteer program established pursuant to this title unless, with respect to acts and omissions that occurred or allegedly occurred within the scope of his or her participation in such program, he or she is covered by an adequate professional liability insurance policy.]A HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER VOLUNTEER SHALL BE DEEMED TO BE AN "EMPLOYEE" FOR PURPOSES OF SECTION SEVENTEEN OF THE PUBLIC OFFICERS LAW WITH RESPECT TO ANY ACTS AND OMISSIONS THAT OCCURRED OR ALLEGEDLY OCCURRED WITHIN THE SCOPE OF HIS OR HER PARTICIPATION IN SUCH PROGRAM. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD10011-01-3