I have taught Health Law for almost three decades. In the early years, the course was primarily about private law, the application of contract and tort principles in the context of health insurance coverage and medical care. Federal law of Medicare, Medicaid, EMTALA, and federal civil rights laws always made an appearance. Other federal statutes were added as they came along: HIPAA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and GINA. Over the years, the course focused more and more on federal statutes until the passage of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) in 2010 completed the transition
Health law is now a public law course.1 It focuses on federal statutes, and students need to understand the role of Congress, federal agencies, the states, and federal courts. The course explores myriad forms of federalism including Medicaid’s cooperative federalism, the ACA’s “fall back” federalism where the federal government steps in only if the states opt out, and old-fashioned federal law preemption of state law. Health law is now statutory interpretation and administrative law principles in the context of health insurance coverage and health care.
Health law continues to be applied law: public law that affects health, health insurance, health care, and public health. About a third to a half of my health law course is devoted to providing students with a better understanding of medical decision making, the organization of health care delivery system, insurance theory, health disparities, and the social determinants of health— how where we live, work, play, and pray impact health
Most importantly, Health Law remains a powerful lens through which to explore issues of social justice, social welfare, and law. We all get sick and need medical care. Many of my students and their families have had serious health problems and struggled to access medical care. Some have been bankrupted financially because of the costs of medical care. They know something about health and health care. This course is an opportunity to explore what equity, fairness, and justice mean when we talk about health and healthcare.
Watson, Sidney D.
"Health Law, Public Law, and Social Justice,"
Saint Louis University Law Journal: Vol. 61
, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.slu.edu/lj/vol61/iss3/5