Continued Attempts at a Federal Good Samaritan Law

At this time, both houses of Congress are in the “lame duck” session, having returned from the post November 6 elections.

Prior to departing in early October, the House managed to pass and send to the Senate HR 6378, a bill to reauthorize the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act, also known as PAHPA. The reauthorization of PAHPA became a central focus in the efforts to pass the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act, a multi-term effort to help fill a gap and extend liability safeguards to licensed health professionals crossing state lines to volunteer during a federally declared disaster.

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Ultimately, the language of the Good Samaritan bill that made it into Section 208 of PAHPA was not as robust as its original intent to reduce barriers for willing healthcare providers to assist in emergent situations. The language clarifies that healthcare professionals who provide medical services within the scope of their license to an individual in need of those services as a result of the emergency or disaster would only be subject to liability laws of that state and not any other state with respect to any alleged act or omission. But in order to be in full compliance, the healthcare professional volunteering his or her services must also register with the state’s Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR/VHP). Because of the late addition of this registration requirement, many willing to cross state lines to volunteer their services could encounter the burdensome step of accessing the ESAR/VHP to register in the affected state’s system and become activated in their system before being able to render their help and assistance.

It is expected the Senate will move the bill during the lame duck session and unless amended, Section 208 will not be as robust as the original Good Samaritan legislation aimed at protecting medical volunteers from lawsuits during a federally declared disaster.

For information on the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals, visit www.phe.gov/esarvhp/Pages/home.aspx

 

Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Public Affairs Analyst. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to gvillanueva@CAPphysicians.com.