Public health, liability and other bills win approval in House

Legislative efforts to address concussion prevention, arthritis research and liability protection face uncertain futures as the Senate will be working under an end-of-year deadline.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Oct. 11, 2010

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Several bipartisan public health and physician-related bills cleared the House before members adjourned on Sept. 30 to campaign for re-election in their districts. Among other things, the bills would extend liability protections to certain volunteer physicians, improve concussion prevention in school-age children and boost arthritis research.

However, their potential for Senate adoption before the 111th Congress adjourns at the end of 2010 is uncertain. Congress is scheduled to return to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15 with a long to-do list, including adopting a fiscal 2011 budget.

The House voted 417-1 in late September to adopt a bill that would provide medical liability protection to physician volunteers at federally qualified health centers. The Family Health Care Accessibility Act, sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy (R, Pa.), would extend the Federal Tort Claims Act to include physicians and other health professionals who volunteer at community health centers. Health center employees, who traditionally have received this medical liability coverage, would continue to get it.

"Medical liability insurance can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and, in some cases, well over $100,000 per year per doctor, and the clinics simply cannot cover that expense," Murphy said in a statement. The bill would cost $18 million between 2011 and 2015, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It has been assigned to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The House voted 412-5 to adopt a measure that would help military medics become emergency physicians. The Emergency Medic Transition Act, sponsored by Rep. Jane Harman (D, Calif.), would provide grants to states with programs for recruiting and training military medics to become emergency physicians. It also would repay veterans' certification and licensing costs.

"Military medics who wish to become first responders must restart their training from scratch, fulfilling the same entry-level criteria as people with no prior training or experience. These duplicative efforts waste time, money and talent," Harman said in a statement.

The CBO estimates that the bill would cost $23 million between 2011 and 2015. It also has been assigned to the Senate HELP Committee.

The House also adopted by voice votes early on Sept. 30:

  • The Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D, N.J.). The bill would require the Health and Human Services secretary to convene a conference of medical, athletic and education professionals to create concussion-management guidelines for student athletes. It would authorize the HHS secretary to give grants to states to implement new concussion policies and purchase equipment that schools could use to test whether a child has sustained a concussion. It would cost $29 million over five years, the CBO estimates.
  • The Heart Disease Education, Analysis Research and Treatment for Women Act, sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D, Calif.). It would require the HHS secretary to reject pharmaceutical applications if they do not include safety and effectiveness information for subgroups based on gender, age and race. It would cost $82 million over five years, according to the CBO.
  • The Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act, sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D, Calif.). It would authorize the HHS secretary to conduct a national arthritis campaign involving research, grants and education. The bill would cost $52 million over five years.

The three bills have been assigned to the Senate HELP Committee.

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