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This paper examines the role of physician-sponsored charity care in meeting the health care needs of the uninsured. The paper provides an overview of current charity care levels by medical specialties and geographic regions, discusses limitations in available data, and describes the settings in which charity care is provided. The paper also summarizes the factors that motivate physicians to provide volunteer services, as well as the barriers that hinder volunteer activities, including malpractice insurance concerns. Also discussed are a range of public policies, both existing and considered, that support volunteer activities, with a particular emphasis on the expansion of Federal Tort Claims Act coverage to physicians who volunteer in free clinics.

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