By Diane Cohen
As you read this, hundreds of doctors and other health care professionals are ready to come to Arizona to provide free medical care for those in need. They are volunteers from around the country, who pay their own travel, room and board so that they can donate their skills over the course of several days at free medical clinics.
These volunteers do not need government funding or reimbursements. They do not care if those they serve have insurance, because they would not take it anyway. The only thing these volunteers need is for the government to get out of the way by allowing them to come to our state to serve.
Remote Area Medical (RAM) is one such group, which brings together medical professionals to serve in free medical clinics in the United States and around the world. RAM provides everything from free diabetes screening to dental surgery, vision tests, free eyeglasses and even veterinary care, to those in America’s inner cities, rural areas and on reservations.
Since 1985, RAM’s thousands of volunteers have treated more than half a million people through more than 660 free medical clinics.
Stan Brock, RAM’s iconic and inspirational founder, dreams of a world where people help each other, “just because they can,” but says the biggest obstacle to providing free care is not the lack of volunteers, but their inability to cross state lines and donate their expertise due to restrictive state licensing laws.
Inspired by RAM, Senator Nancy Barto introduced SB 1189, which would amend Arizona law by providing a temporary exemption from our licensing laws to volunteer medical providers who are licensed in good standing in other states. The law would also open the door for other, similar charitable organizations to aid Arizonans.
A committee hearing will be held on the bill this Wednesday, February 15, at 2 p.m., in Senate Hearing Room 1. With its passage, Arizona would join Illinois and Tennessee, which have passed similar laws.
Let’s open our doors to that which makes America great: its people, who more than any government ever could, want to help others just because they can.
Diane Cohen is a senior attorney for the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
Arizona Legislature: Contact your legislator to share your opinion on this bill
Remote Area Medical: RAM Website
CBS News: 60 Minutes profile of RAM