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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Primary Care: The Health Center Program

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Free Clinics

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) granted medical malpractice coverage through the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) to volunteer Free Clinic health care professionals. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act extended this coverage to free clinic board members, officers, employees, and individual contractors.

Congress first appropriated funds for FTCA medical malpractice protection for volunteer health care professionals in 2004. Free clinic volunteers, board members, employees, or contractors who meet all the requirements may be sponsored by the free clinic and "deemed" a federal employee by HRSA for the purpose of FTCA medical malpractice coverage.

FTCA deemed status provides the covered individual with immunity from medical malpractice lawsuits resulting from his/her subsequent performance of clinical medical, dental or related functions within the scope of his/her work at the free clinic.

Unlike health centers, free clinics are not deemed as an entity.  Free clinic employees, volunteers, board members, etc., are not automatically covered under  FTCA and have to apply for coverage.  An “FTCA deemed” status provides the covered individual with immunity from medical malpractice lawsuits resulting from his/her subsequent performance of clinical medical, dental or related functions within the scope of his/her work at the free clinic.

Related Legislation, Regulations, and Policies

Congress enacted FTCA medical malpractice protection for volunteer Free Clinic health care professionals through Section 194 of HIPAA (Public Law 104-91) by amending section 224 of the Public Health Service Act (42. U.S.C. 233, 42 U.S.C. 233(o)). This protection was extended by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (Public Law 111-148) making board members, officers, employees, and contractors also eligible for FTCA coverage.

Contacts and Sources for Additional Information

FreeclinicsFTCA@hrsa.gov
Federal Tort Claims Act Program
Office of Quality and Data
Bureau of Primary Health Care
Health Resources and Services Administration
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 6A-55
Rockville, MD 20857
Phone: 301-594-0818
Fax: 301-594-5224