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Mr. SESSIONS. Madam Chair, I rise to support the amendment to H.R. 5 that I have co-sponsored with my good friend Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. The amendment extends critical liability coverage to emergency room and on-call physicians and physician groups.
Madam Chair, we are at a crisis point in this country. In these difficult economic times, our emergency rooms have become a source of primary care to many of our fellow citizens. At the time that we need them the most, nearly half of all emergency rooms in medical liability crisis states are under staffed. We face this shortage not because of a lack of trained specialists, but because liability coverage costs too much due to the unique set of medical challenges that are seen in emergency situations.
By law, emergency rooms must treat anyone who needs care regardless of if they have insurance or can afford it. Over the past several years, emergency rooms have seen an increase in patients due to the number of unemployed and/or uninsured people needing care. We have found that our emergency room cases are becoming more complicated and frequent, and our doctors do not have the luxury of a complete patient history.
Our emergency physicians are the first line of defense for the health care community. As such, we must provide basic liability protections to these emergency and on-call physicians. This liability protection is critical to maintaining the state of the art emergency facilities that we have at our disposal today.
The Dent-Sessions amendment would deem hospitals, emergency rooms, physicians and physicians groups that provide emergency care to individuals to be employees of the Public Health Service for purposes of any civil action that may arise due to health care items and services provided under the Public Health Service Act.
I commend Congressman Dent for his leadership on this issue and would ask my colleagues to support this amendment which is critical for patient care.
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