Free clinics rely on volunteers and other health professionals to provide medical, dental, pharmacy, vision and/or behavioral health services to poor and underserved people. Practitioners, board members, officers, employees and qualified individual contractors affiliated with free clinics may be sponsored by a free clinic in applying for Federal Tort Claims Act malpractice protection.
FTCA deemed providers include a broad range of health professionals. Some are licensed and/or certified, such as physicians, dentists and nurses. Others are not, such as medical receptionists or board members.
Free Clinics must sponsor each individual and apply to HRSA to "deem” the individual. Health centers, by contrast, are "deemed" as entities and receive automatic FTCA coverage for all qualified employees when the health center is "deemed."
Legislation, Regulations and Policies
The Federal Tort Claims Act was enacted in 1946, and provides the legal mechanism for compensating people who suffer personal injury due to the alleged negligent or wrongful action of employees of the U.S. government.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) extended the eligibility for FTCA protection to volunteer health professionals at qualifying free clinics. Funds to support the program were appropriated in 2004, and the first free clinic volunteers were "deemed" in 2005.
The Affordable Care Act further expanded eligibility for "deeming" to employees, officers, board members and contractors of qualifying free clinics.
Federal Tort Claims Act Program
Health Resources and Services Administration
Bureau of Primary Health Care
Office of Quality Improvement
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 16W61B
Rockville, MD 20857