Team Physicians Finally Get Federal Licensing and Liability Protection

Capitol Dome for OBuzzWhen it comes to passing federal legislation on Capitol Hill, common-sense solutions for relatively straightforward problems are often not easy to come by. There always seems to be something holding up every piece of legislation, no matter how great the benefits and how minimal the risks/costs.

That is why I was happy to hear that Congress passed the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act  earlier this month.  The legislation clarifies that health care services provided by a licensed provider in a state other than the one in which he/she is licensed (a scenario commonly encountered by physicians and athletic trainers who travel with collegiate or professional athletic teams) will be considered in-state services and will be covered by the provider’s liability insurance.

The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and several other provider groups—including the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM)—have long recognized that previous laws exposed many team physicians to medical liability if they provided care in states in which they did not have a medical license. The Clarity Act protects orthopaedic surgeons, athletic trainers, and other health care professionals who serve as traveling care providers from licensure hassles and potential liability so they can focus on caring for their athlete-patients.

As someone who has been engaged in orthopaedic advocacy efforts for my entire, albeit short, orthopaedic career, I am proud of this accomplishment. Advocacy is not for the faint of heart, and the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to get legislation like this enacted is astounding. Arguably, such efforts have never been more important than they are in today’s health care environment.  If we, as orthopaedic surgeons, do not advocate on behalf of our patients and ourselves, no one else will.

Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

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