"Alaska ranks 49th in the country in per capita physicians."
- Rep. Paul Seaton
"An Act relating to immunity for free health care services provided by certain health care providers; and providing for an effective date."
Alaska is currently experiencing a shortage of physicians and many of the physicians that do work in the state will be retiring soon. This lack of physicians may decrease future medical care available to Alaskans. HB 260 addresses this problem by extending the ability of licensed physicians and other health care providers to administer health care services free of charge. By exempting such services from malpractice liability, HB 260 would allow health care providers do donate their professional services at a lower personal cost. HB 260 will be especially helpful to retiring health professionals that wish to donate their services but do not still carry medical malpractice insurance. 43 other states have enacted similar legislation.
Historically, Alaska has had a hard time recruiting and keeping adequate numbers of physicians and other heath care providers. Currently, with 186 physicians per 100,000 residents, Alaska ranks 49th in the country in per capita physicians. The average age of Alaska's physicians is over 51 years old. Many of Alaska's most senior and experienced physicians will be retiring in the next 5 to 10 years.
As licensed physicians in Alaska retire, many of them would like to provide free services within their communities. Unfortunately, paying for extremely expensive medical malpractice insurance while providing free services is costly and prohibitive. HB 260 would allow health care providers to give free services without this cost and thus would greatly increase the volunteer activity among the state's aging health care providers.
HB 260 would exempt from malpractice liability only those health care services that are provided for free to individuals that are willing to receive such services. HB 260 does not in any other way alter medical malpractice laws or liability. Health care providers would still be liable for actions resulting from gross negligence, reckless behavior, or intentional misconduct.