As Alabama and Clemson prepared for the national college football championship game kick-off the other day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on liability rules for sports medicine physicians and athletic trainers.
The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act (H.R. 302) passed by voice vote Jan. 9.
The next step for the bill will be its introduction to the 2017-18 U.S. Senate.
The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) and a coalition of sports medicine organizations, including the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, have been urging Congress to back the bill for several years. The 2015-16 version of the bill (H.R. 921) garnered 190 sponsors and passed the House on Sept. 12, 2016, but the bill was not approved by the Senate before Congress adjourned in December.
H.R. 302, which was reintroduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Cedric Richmond (D-La.), clarifies medical liability rules for sports medicine physicians, athletic trainers and other medical professionals to ensure they’re properly covered by their liability insurance while traveling with athletic teams in another state.
Under the bill, health care services provided by a covered physician, athletic trainer or other sports medicine professional to an athlete, athletic team or a staff member in another state will be deemed to have satisfied any licensure requirements of the secondary state.
Currently, AMSSM says sports medicine professionals who travel outside of their state to provide care for athletes are often not covered by their medical malpractice insurance – largely because of jurisdictional issues. Supporters say the federal bill would allow sport medicine providers to engage in the treatment of injured athletes across state lines without taking on unnecessary professional and financial risk.
The bill stipulates that health care services provided by a covered sports medicine professional to an athlete, athletic team, or team staff member in a secondary state outside that professional’s state of licensure will be covered by the appropriate medical malpractice insurance provider.
If it receives a passing vote in the Senate, it will go to the President’s desk for final signature to make it a law.
“It’s encouraging to see the U.S. House of Representatives recognize the importance of this legislation,” said AMSSM President Matt Gammons, MD. “The college football bowl season represents a perfect example of how this bill can protect athletes and healthcare professionals as they travel with teams to do their jobs.”
AMSSM members include primary care physicians with qualification in non-surgical sports medicine who serve as team physicians at the youth level, for the NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS and NHL, as well as with Olympic teams.