Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) yesterday introduced H.R. 7538, the Essential Workforce Parity Act. If enacted, this legislation would extend paid leave required by the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) to health care workers and offer liability protections to hospitals and other medical providers from certain lawsuits during the COVID-19 emergency declaration.
“Our doctors and nurses are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic risking their own health to treat the worst cases of COVID-19,” said Kelly. “The Essential Workforce Parity Act will guarantee that our health care heroes are treated fairly if they get sick while also ensuring their primary focus can be on helping patients, not fighting lawsuits.”
The legislation has received support in whole or in part from two key organizations, including the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) and the Health Coalition on Liability Access (HCLA).
Andy Carter, President and CEO of HAP, said this about the bill: “Pennsylvania hospitals’ first priority is the safety of health care workers and the patients they treat. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. During these difficult times—where the situation and guidance is constantly changing—we must allow health care workers and facilities to focus on caring for every patient who needs care rather than worrying about the threat of meritless lawsuits. HAP commends Rep. Kelly for including these important liability protections in the Essential Worker Parity Act, and appreciates his longstanding commitment to supporting health care workers on the front lines of this crisis as evidenced by provisions in this legislation which would ensure benefits to workers personally impacted by COVID-19.”
Section 3 of H.R. 7538 received the endorsement of the HCLA in this letter to Representative Kelly, which reads in part: “The limited and targeted protection from liability provided by Section 3 will help ensure that healthcare professionals and facilities on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic can focus on helping patients without fear of getting drawn into unwarranted lawsuits.”
FFCRA exempted hospitals and other health care facilities from the requirement to offer paid leave to health care workers because the extent to which the pandemic would affect the health system was not yet known and the country needed its health care heroes at work. Representative Kelly recognizes this exemption is an added sacrifice and unfair for doctors and nurses. His legislation would provide leave to health care workers who contract COVID-19, the cost for which is eligible for reimbursement by the federal government under FFCRA.
In addition to extending paid leave to doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, the Essential Workers Parity Act would also offer specific targeted legal protections to health care providers while they grapple with the complexity of treating COVID-19 patients.