Federal Tort Claims Act Coverage

HEHS-97-32R: Published: Nov 5, 1996. Publicly Released: Nov 5, 1996.

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Bernice Steinhardt
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Bureau of Primary Health Care's efforts to implement Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) coverage for federally supported community and migrant health centers. GAO noted that: (1) it is possible that centers could continue using federal grant funds to pay their private comprehensive malpractice premiums at the same time they are participating in FTCA, since the Bureau did not establish an effective date for centers to cancel such coverage; (2) centers with dual coverage may not be saving money that could enable them to expand health services; (3) centers may be reluctant to cancel their private comprehensive malpractice coverage because FTCA coverage is still a relatively new option for centers and is accompanied by a degree of uncertainty about which services and procedures are not covered by FTCA, the availability of private policies to cover these gaps, and questions about the FTCA claims resolution process; (4) some centers that have cancelled their private malpractice coverage and are participating in FTCA are reporting savings, some of which are substantial; (5) by establishing a deadline when private comprehensive malpractice coverage is no longer an allowable expense, the Bureau can help ensure that centers realize savings to expand health services; and (6) the Bureau plans to issue a policy notice in November 1996 establishing December 31, 1996, as the deadline for most centers to cancel dual coverage.

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