SENATE, No. 2231

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED OCTOBER 4, 2012

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  ROBERT W. SINGER

District 30 (Monmouth and Ocean)

Senator  BRIAN P. STACK

District 33 (Hudson)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Senator Oroho

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     “Volunteer Medical Professional Health Care Act.”

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning immunity for civil liability for certain volunteer medical professionals and supplementing Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Volunteer Medical Professional Health Care Act.”

 

     2.    The Legislature finds and declares that:

     a.     There are over one million residents in the State of New Jersey without health insurance;

     b.    The State of New Jersey provides over $700 million in charity care per year;

     c.     Hospital emergency rooms are treating many non-urgent medical conditions because patients perceive that they have no other choices;

     d.    Medicaid expenditures in the State of New Jersey now exceed $10 billion per year;

     e.     Medicaid mandates are placing additional financial burdens on hospitals, physicians, and dentists, directly impacting the quality and delivery of health care services;

     f.     There is an impending fiscal crisis with the proposed expansion of Medicaid;

     g.     Federal law provides full immunity to physicians and other health care professionals while they volunteer in nonprofit free clinics that treat the poor and charge no fee; and

     h.     Expanding physicians’ civil immunity from tort claims in exchange for their ongoing commitments to charitable practice in free clinics can improve low-income patients’ access to a range of medical options while reducing Medicaid utilization and expenditures.

 

     3.    As used in this act:

     “Department” means the Department of Health.

     “Free clinic” means a health care facility licensed by the Department of Health pursuant to P.L.1971, c.136 (C.26:2H-1 et seq.) and operated by a nonprofit private entity, and defined in section 224 of the "Public Health Service Act," (42 U.S.C. s.233) and meeting the following criteria:

     (1)   The facility does not accept reimbursement for health care services from any third-party payer, including reimbursement under any insurance policy or health benefits plan, or under any federal or State health benefits program, but the facility may accept voluntary donations for the provision of services; and

     (2)   The facility either does not impose charges on the patients, or imposes a charge according to the patient’s ability to pay the charge.

     “Free clinic offsite program” means a program or event operated by a free clinic through which qualifying health services are provided to patients at a site other than the free clinic, which may include a volunteer medical professional’s customary practice location or another location, as appropriate.

     “Qualifying health services” means qualifying health services pursuant to section 224 of the "Public Health Service Act," (42 U.S.C. s.233).

     “Volunteer medical professional” means a licensed physician or dentist who is certified as a volunteer medical professional pursuant to this act.

 

     4.    a. The department shall certify a physician or dentist as a volunteer medical professional pursuant to this act if, at the time of application for certification:

     (1)  the physician or dentist is licensed pursuant to Title 45 of the Revised Statutes to practice a health care profession that is regulated by the State Board of Medical Examiners or the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry;

     (2)  the physician or dentist provides documentation to the department certifying that the physician or dentist is deemed to be an employee of the federal Public Health Service as a free clinic health professional providing qualifying health services pursuant to section 224 of the "Public Health Service Act," (42 U.S.C. s.233); and

     (3)  the physician or dentist and the medical director of a free clinic provide documentation to the department certifying that the physician or dentist, prior to the application date and within the calendar quarter of application, has performed at least four hours of qualifying health services at the free clinic or free clinic offsite program per week for four consecutive weeks.

     b.    To maintain certification as a volunteer medical professional pursuant to this act, a volunteer medical professional shall:

     (1)  continue to meet the criteria specified in paragraphs (1) and (2) of subsection a. of this section; and

     (2)  provide documentation to the department, on a quarterly basis, certifying that the volunteer medical professional has provided no fewer than 48 hours per calendar quarter of qualifying health services at a free clinic or a free clinic offsite program.  This documentation shall include verification by the medical director of a free clinic of the qualifying health services provided.

     c.     the department shall immediately terminate the certification of a physician or dentist as a volunteer medical professional pursuant to this act if the physician or dentist fails to meet the criteria specified in subsection b. of this section.

     5.    a.  A physician or dentist who is certified by the department as a volunteer medical professional pursuant to this act shall be immune from civil liability for any personal injury or wrongful death to a patient that is a result of any act or omission in the course of providing care or treatment if the care or treatment was reasonably provided in good faith and the volunteer medical professional was acting within the scope of his practice, except that the immunity granted under this section does not extend to an act or omission that was the result of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.

     b.    The exclusive remedy for injury or damage suffered as the result of any act or omission of the volunteer medical professional is by commencement of an action against the State in a court of competent jurisdiction.

 

     6.    The Commissioner of Health shall adopt rules and regulations, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), in order to effectuate the purposes of this act.

 

     7.    This act shall take effect on the first day of the seventh month next following the date of enactment, but the Commissioner of Health may take such anticipatory administrative action in advance thereof as shall be necessary for the implementation of this act.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill, which is designated as the “Volunteer Medical Professional Health Care Act,” provides that a physician or dentist who is certified as a volunteer medical professional by the Department of Health (DOH) is immune from civil liability in accordance with its provisions.

     In order to be certified as a volunteer medical professional and receive civil immunity under the bill, an individual must, at the time of application for certification:

·        be a physician or dentist licensed to practice in New Jersey;

·        be deemed to be an employee of the federal Public Health Service as a free clinic health professional providing qualifying health services pursuant to section 224 of the "Public Health Service Act," (42 U.S.C. s.233); and

·        have provided at least four hours of qualifying health services at a free clinic or a free clinic offsite program each week for four consecutive weeks within the calendar quarter of application.

      In order to maintain certification as a volunteer medical professional, an individual must:

·        continue to meet the State licensure requirement;

·        continue to be deemed as an employee of the federal Public Health Service as a free clinic health professional; and

·        provide a total of at least 48 hours per calendar quarter of qualifying health services (equivalent to approximately four hours per week) at a free clinic or a free clinic offsite program.

      Physicians and dentists seeking and maintaining certification, and medical directors of free clinics, as applicable, are required to provide DOH with documentation certifying that the above criteria have been met.

     The bill provides that a volunteer medical professional certified by DOH is immune from civil liability for any personal injury or wrongful death that is a result of any act or omission in the course of providing care or treatment if the care or treatment was reasonably provided in good faith and the volunteer medical professional was acting within the scope of his practice, except that the immunity does not extend to an act or omission that was the result of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.  The exclusive remedy for injury or damage suffered as the result of any act or omission of the volunteer medical professional is by commencement of an action against the State in a court of competent jurisdiction.

     The bill takes effect on the first day of the seventh month next following the date of enactment, but the Commissioner of Health is authorized to take prior administrative action as necessary for its implementation.