Health Care Law

In the United States health care laws had remained pretty much the same for many years until the Affordable Care Act was passed. The Affordable Care Act offers reform to the current health care laws that are in place and provides individuals with new options for coverage, consumer protection, and offers the citizens of the country the chance to make better and more informed choices about their health.

Health Care Law, federal and state administered, deals with issues related to the United States health care system, covering a vast variety of legal subjects such as mental health, health reform, health insurance, patient protection, affordable health care and emergency health care.

  • ABA – Health Law Section / The American Bar Association Health Law Section is dedicated to increasing interest in the field of health law. Its 8,885 members represent all areas of the health law industry and are committed to educating the legal profession in this rapidly changing area of practice.
  • Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) / In 1986, Congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) to ensure public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. Section 1867 of the Social Security Act imposes specific obligations on Medicare-participating hospitals that offer emergency services to provide a medical screening examination (MSE) when a request is made for examination or treatment for an emergency medical condition (EMC), including active labor, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.
  • Health Information Privacy / The Office for Civil Rights enforces the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information; the HIPAA Security Rule, which sets national standards for the security of electronic protected health information; and the confidentiality provisions of the Patient Safety Rule, which protect identifiable information being used to analyze patient safety events and improve patient safety.
  • OHRP Policy and Guidance / OHRP has published a variety of policy and regulatory guidance materials to assist the research community in conducting ethical research that is in compliance with the HHS regulations. These include guidance documents and frequently asked questions (FAQs) addressing various topics, findings in the form of OHRP letters addressing regulatory issues, and other media including decision tree graphics and educational videos.
  • Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act / The regulation implementing the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA) was published on November 21, 2008, and became effective on January 19, 2009.

Healthcare law concerns who can receive healthcare, and who should pay for it. This is a surprisingly complicated area of law given how expensive healthcare can be in the United States. Furthermore, the laws concerning who health insurance companies can and must cover are constantly changing as policymakers attempt to find a way to provide health care to the greatest amount of people at the least cost.

Since healthcare is so expensive, several government programs help people in the U.S. pay for medical services, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Disability Insurance. Lawyers help patients apply for benefits and ensure that patients receive the payments to which they are entitled.

Healthcare attorneys also help families plan for long term care and elder care. As people begin to live longer, their medical care typically becomes more and more expensive. In addition, these elderly patients often lose the mental or physical capacity to care for themselves. Families can plan ahead by setting aside money for medical costs, creating a living will, and deciding which kind of long term care service to use before the need arises.

Finally, healthcare attorneys work with medical providers and patients to ensure that patients’ rights are respected. This includes the right to informed consent, which requires doctors to educate you about your medical options before you make a decision, and a patients’ right to privacy in their medical records. Healthcare law also governs what procedures doctors may or may not perform. Particularly controversial procedures include assisted suicide and abortion.

Terms to Know

  • Estate Plan: A collection of documents which determines what happens to someone’s assets after she passes away and creates a plan in case that person becomes incapacitated later in life.
  • Trust: A legal arrangement in which someone’s assets are placed in another person’s care for the benefit of a third person. It can be a useful way to plan for future medical costs.
  • Living Will: A legal document that describes a patient’s medical preferences and is used when that patient is unable to direct his own medical care.
  • Power of Attorney: A legal document which designates someone to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of someone else.
  • HIPAA: The law which requires medical providers to keep patient data confidential.
  • The Affordable Care Act: A law which requires employers to provide health insurance for their employees and required individuals who are not covered by employers to obtain their own insurance.
  • Managed Care: A Medicare plan which attempts to coordinate a patient’s care to a single network of providers.

Related Practice Areas

  • Estate Planning: The practice area which creates wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents.
  • Elder Law: This practice area concerns all the legal aspects of aging, including estate planning and health care law.
  • Insurance Law: Insurance law attorneys help insurance companies determine how much to pay their clients and advocate for clients so that they receive all relevant benefits.
  • Medical Malpractice: The area of law which determines the standards doctors must follow when treating patients.

If you have a Medicare or Medicaid issue, or have a question regarding the services a doctor may provide, be sure to contact a qualified local attorney.