Bill for free clinic insurance advances in Alabama Senate

By M.J. Ellington

A local senator’s bill to provide medical liability insurance for volunteer doctors cleared a Senate committee Wednesday.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, the bill’s sponsor, said the Finance and Taxation Governmental Affairs Committee passed the bill with bipartisan support. It now goes to the full Senate.

The bill would provide retired physicians with state medical liability coverage through the Alabama Department of Public Health and the state’s risk management pool. If a patient sued a doctor who treated him at a free clinic, the insurance would pay for the doctor’s malpractice defense, Orr said.

Orr said more physicians would volunteer at free clinics if the insurance were available. The price of private medical liability insurance is an obstacle for retired doctors, he said.

At $348 per physician, liability coverage for the state’s 25 to 40 retired doctors who volunteer at free clinics would cost the state between $7,000 and $14,000 per year, Orr estimates.

Free clinics treat people who have too much income for Medicaid but not enough to buy private health insurance. Orr said the patients often include the working poor.
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