Health Centers can reduce their liability for lawsuits by ensuring they are eligible for coverage by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which offers protection akin to medical malpractice insurance to federally-funded Migrant and Community Health Centers. Since Health Centers are required to refer patients to medically-necessary specialty care services that are not within their capacity to provide, it is important to be consider the Health Center’s coverage and potential exposure in the event that problems arise connected to the referral.
In order to meet the needs of special populations such as migrant farmworkers, Health Centers often use non-traditional delivery methods to provide health care. For example, services may be provided at locations other than their own bricks-and-mortar location that are more convenient for patients. Health Centers can reduce their liability for lawsuits from incidents arising while their employees are working off-site by ensuring they are eligible for coverage by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which offers protection akin to medical malpractice insurance to federally-funded Migrant and Community Health Centers.
In recognition of the importance of behavioral health as a component of quality health care delivery, HRSA requires health centers to provide these services to their patient population. These are services that are difficult for many MHCs to provide onsite so they must be contracted to outside providers. Behavioral health services may include, but are not limited to, counseling for mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety) and substance abuse (e.g., alcohol, recreational drugs). Health centers need to be aware of the special requirements imposed by HIPAA on medical records generated by the provision of behavioral health services, and consider the impact on FTCA coverage of referring patients to outside and/or off-site providers.
As part of their enabling services for farmworkers, Health Centers may provide transportation to and from appointments. In the event of an incident arising from providing this service, Health Centers can implement certain policies and practices to reduce their risk of liability.
Unlike providers of many other federally-funded services and benefits, Health Centers are permitted to serve undocumented patients, and are not required to ask about a patient’s immigration status. Migrant Health Centers need to ensure that their policies protect patient privacy while complying with applicable laws on collection and disclosure of patient information.