Senate Approves Disaster Preparedness Legislation
Last week, the Senate health committee approved legislation to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, making targeted improvements to the tools at our nation’s disposal to prepare for and respond to the threats that we face, whether naturally occurring like pandemic flu, or as a result of a deliberate attack on our country. The reauthorization legislation, titled the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (PAHPAI), focuses on improvements to programs within the original framework to address these 21st century threats. According to the legislators, Ebola, Zika, and a destructive hurricane season have all made clear that these threats are constantly evolving, requiring further work to protect our communities.
The bill includes some provisions from Senator Cassidy’s Good Samaritan bill (read more in Advocacy Now online here), championed by Representative Blackburn, to clarify liability protections for volunteers during public health emergencies. The bill also includes the AAOS-endorsed MISSION ZERO Act (H.R. 880), authored by Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX). The legislation establishes a grant program for trauma centers to bring military trauma specialists to civilian hospitals. AAOS and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) support the bill, which will bolster civilian trauma care and help military surgeons remain battle-ready. AAOS recently joined OTA to encourage the inclusion of both these measures in the PAHPAI bill (read more in Advocacy Now online here).
“I am continuing to work with Sen. Cassidy and Rep. Blackburn on improving the [Good Samaritan] provision—including expanding the protections to more disasters and making it easier for individuals to register,” stated Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
“The recent resurgence of Ebola in the Congo should serve as a stark reminder that the threats we are working to address in this bill aren’t hypothetical,” said Senate HELP ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
“Recent federally-declared disasters have highlighted the need for medical professionals who wish to assist those affected and that they not be turned away or limited in the scope of their assistance due to a potential medical liability lawsuit,” stated AAOS and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) in a letter to the committee regarding to Good Samaritan bill. “While current state and federal laws provide some level of liability protections for licensed health care professionals, this legislation would fill remaining gaps and ensure that vital health care services – often provided by medical volunteers – remain available, all while respecting existing medical liability laws in individual states.”