July 9, 2017 Print

The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), an Atlas Network partner based in Florida, is working to increase access to healthcare through Volunteer Care, its innovative program that champions the power of private charity.  

Volunteer Care is a voluntary medical services program that removes barriers for physicians, dentists, and other medical professionals to donate their time to care for low-income patients. This allows medical professionals to receive Continuing Medical Education credits for their volunteerism, and protects doctors from abusive medical malpractice lawsuits.

“Generally, those with low incomes (up to double the federal poverty income definition) are receiving care at no cost to them,” said FGA’s Legislative Relations Director Gregg Pfister. “Without Volunteer Care, they would either not receive care at all or get care through a government program costing taxpayers much more than the cost of the Volunteer Care program. Volunteer Care also is a great outreach to isolated areas, or communities with a low number of physicians. By encouraging volunteer time, we are helping individuals and families have better access to quality health care.”

FGA took Florida’s successful Volunteer Care model to the national stage in 2014. As of July 2017, it has been adopted by South Carolina, Utah, Kansas, Virginia, Ohio, Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia, and similar legislation is being considered in Wyoming. Florida alone had over 475,000 patient visits from 2015-16, and it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of patients nationwide have already benefited from receiving free healthcare from private charity through the work of Volunteer Care.

Taking cues from Florida, which enacted major healthcare reforms in the early nineties, South Carolina passed a “common-sense” Volunteer Care bill in May 2016 bringing nearly $43 million in free healthcare to the state’s low-income individuals, according to a press release from FGA. 

And in West Virginia, the recent passage of the West Virginia Medical Practice Act has the potential to bring more than $8 million in donated care to low-income residents of the state, and also allows for out-of-state medical professionals to now provide their services.

Atlas Network awarded FGA a North America Think Tank Leadership Training grant in 2016 to help promote the work that FGA has done through Volunteer Care.