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Would Encourage Retired but Still Licensed Physicians To Offer Services to Underserved Communities

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Health Committee Chairman Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., and committee Vice Chairwoman Connie Wagner to provide civil immunity for volunteer physicians who offer their services to nonprofit clinics and federally qualified health centers was released Thursday from committee.

“Increasing the legal protections for retired doctors who are still licensed to practice medicine will help encourage them to offer their services to communities in need,” said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden). “That, in turn, will help keep New Jerseyans with little to no insurance from relying on expensive critical care and emergency room treatment for basic medical services.”

Under the Conaway/Wagner bill (A-1990) volunteer physicians who provide patient care or treatment at nonprofit free-standing clinics or at federally qualified health centers would be immune from civil liability for personal injury to the patient if the care was provided in good faith. No immunity would be provided for gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct on the part of the physician.

As an added level of protection, prior to receiving any care or treatment, both the patient and the volunteer physician would have to agree to the immunity granted by this legislation and that the care or treatment received would be given without compensation. The sponsors noted that at least 13 other states provide similar immunity to retired volunteer physicians.

“Providing communities in need with free healthcare services is never a bad thing,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “Being able to do so in a way that protects both the doctor and the patient ensures the services provided will not be substandard nor abused.”

The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee released the measure. It now heads to the Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote.

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