(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — The State Senate has approved legislation sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) which allows volunteer health clinics to charge a nominal flat fee for services provided to patients. Overbey said the legislation is designed to address a problem that Mountain Hope Good Shepard Clinic has experienced under the current definition of Tennessee’s Volunteer Health Care Services Act, which allows such volunteer clinics to charge a sliding fee bases on income, no charge or a charge based on a confusing formula.
“These clinics are critical to many Tennesseans that depend upon healthcare services provided by volunteer healthcare providers,” said Senator Overbey. “This bill replaces the confusing language under the current law and allows these clinics to choose other options, whether it is providing a service free of charge, a fee based on income according to a sliding scale, or a nominal flat rate fee, as long as it is no more than $50.”
The Tennessee Volunteer Services Act gives sponsoring organizations of these healthcare clinics immunity from liability for the services they are providing as volunteers. Current law provides a biennial fee at the time of service of no more than the state regulatory fee. Senate Bill 1473 replaces the charge based on the state regulatory fee with a flat rate of no more than $50, charged at the time of service.
“Though no patient has ever been denied medical treatment because of inability to pay, for our first eleven years the clinic charged on a sliding fee scale based on documented income and number of persons in the household,” said Mary Vance, Executive Director of Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic. “It was extremely time consuming and difficult based upon patient inability to document income, as well as being potentially embarrassing for patients. As a result, most patients paid what they could at time of service.”
“We could not operate at our current level without our professional volunteers,” she added. “Since we do charge a nominal flat rate fee that does not meet our costs, any savings from liability for those services rendered by the volunteers would be most beneficial.”
Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic has just celebrated its 15th anniversary in serving only the medically uninsured with 19,000 patients of record.
“These clinics literally save lives by helping patients who have nowhere else go when they are ill,” added Overbey. “We need to do everything we can to help ease bureaucratic burdens and give them more time to focus on patients. I am very pleased this common sense legislation has been approved by my colleagues in the Senate.”