A Better Way to Provide Charity Care
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 12:15AM
Overview of NJ S239, the Volunteer Professional Protection Act
Drs. Alieta & John Eck, MD

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons

New Jersey taxpayers provide “charity care” to thousands of patients each year at a cost of over one billion dollars.

This massive expenditure is in addition to the $12 to 13 billion dollars spent annually in the state for 1 Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite promises to the contrary, will neither address the needs of the destitute for medical care, nor control the costs associated with that care, and may, in fact, increase the hardship and costs for needy residents of New Jersey. A new resolution put forth to the New Jersey State Legislature, NJ S239, has been written to ameliorate these concerns, reducing costs while providing much­needed care. 

The Problem: Government­ Run Medicine

  • Medicaid rolls are expected to double under the ACA.
  • Medicaid patients, according to an Oregon study, are more likely to seek care at an emergency room than are patients with no medical insurance coverage. This adds to the problem of unnecessarily over­used emergency rooms.
  • Emergency rooms are frequently used by patients with non­emergent illnesses. This causes overcrowding and places a tremendous burden on physicians, nurses, and hospital staff.
  • Physicians, in greater numbers, are refusing to take new Medicaid patients as this government ­run program fails to cover their costs. This only adds to the ever­ increasing demand for care exacerbated by problems with the Medicaid program.
  • Bureaucrats are being hired in greater numbers to handle Medicaid regulatory paperwork under the guise of controlling fraud and abuse while, in essence, rationing care.
  • Physicians, unable to meet their financial obligations, are leaving the state or closing their offices and retiring early. This increases the demand and cost for medical care.
  • Patients, frustrated with problems inherent in the system, are becoming increasingly angry and filled with despair.
The Solution: Non­Government Charity Clinics
  • Physicians and nurses provide ready access to free, local primary care. This is true charity.
  • Volunteers from the community provide non­bureaucratic, practical, lower­cost staffing.
  • Physicians who provide care through free clinics receive free medical malpractice coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) which deems them part of the national public health service for the purpose of such coverage.
The Benefits: A Healthier Economy, Community, and Citizenry

The Proposal: New Jersey Charity Clinics

The Bill: NJ S239 (Prime Sponsors: Singer, Stack, Oroho)

Physicians, dentists, and other medical professionals who donate four hours in or through a non­government, free clinic, having been deemed fit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, shall be immune from any civil liability or other legal action. Any such liability and resulting legal action shall be borne by the State of New Jersey.

Summary and Conclusion

The Medical Society of New Jersey, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the New JerseyInstitute of Civil Justice, and several religious organizations (eager to open clinics) support this legislation.

Legislators in both the Senate and Assembly have been fully briefed through numerous meetings, and many are supportive. In addition, the legislative staff of the majority and minority leadership and staff in the office of the Governor have also received full briefings on the proposal. Senator Singer, who serves on the board of a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), estimates that, if enacted, the state would save 250 million dollars per year.

Members of other state legislatures have reviewed this proposal and the response has been very positive. The bill has been introduced in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The President­elect of the Medical Society of Virginia supports the bill and has asked for help to pass this legislation.

NJ S­239 will be a force for positive change in New Jersey for patients, physicians, and taxpayers – your constituents!

Alieta Eck, MD

Co­founder, Zarephath Health Center, www.zhcenter.org

2012 President, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, www.aapsonline.org



Article originally appeared on AAPS New Jersey State Chapter (http://njaaps.org/).
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