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What You Need to Know About “Medicare and Medicaid-for-all” to Survive the Current Election Cycle

By Jennifer S. Bard

Just as medical students find themselves being asked at parties to look at rashes, this year health law students (and professors) are being asked about the proposals to fix our broken health care system being offered by the many candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Talk about these issues are certain to continue through the primaries as 81% of Democrats agree that “the federal government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health coverage.” While Republicans are less sure about who should pay, health care remains a top issue for 69% of the electorate.

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A white hospital hallway

The ‘Nazi Problem’ in Human Subject Research Regulation

As Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day draws near, it is heartening to note that our collective horror against Nazis and Nazism is still sufficiently strong as to make them the archetype evil villains in movies, TV, and dystopian literature. The evil doctor conducting fiendish experiments lives on in fiction because we recall the all-too-real horrific acts of torture conducted by Nazi physicians against children held captive and killed in the millions.

(Here are the Personal Statements of people who survived to tell their stories.)

Yet, as important as it is to never forget these crimes, we should resist the temptation of letting these memories lead us to a false story about the origin of human subject research regulation in the United States. Read More

Regulating Human Subject Research: Like Being an Unwilling Participant in a Very Nerdy Version of Groundhog Day

This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting how I am developing an overview of some of the significant gaps in regulation of human subject research. I will be looking at the use of living human beings as participants in experiments conducted by academics to advance knowledge, as well as by biomedical companies to test new products.

My goal is two-fold: I hope to develop the first Nutshell in Human Subject Regulation as a valuable handbook for those studying and working in this field. In addition, I hope to bring together two issues that are often separate: providing greater protection to people who participate in research as subjects, and increasing the quality of the information generated. Read More

Ebola in the United States—Some Resources for the Law School Curriculum

By Jennifer Bard
[Cross-post (with some updates) from Prawfsblawg.]

Law students have lots of things competing for their attention, but one topic I’ve found of general interest this fall is Ebola. Although the topic is obvious low-hanging fruit for those of us in the health law crowd, I’d suggest there’s plenty to keep Constitutional Law, Torts (information is coming out that the patient was sent home from the emergency room, even though he said he had been to Liberia and that his contacts are being monitored including five school children), Commercial Law, International Law, immigration, etc. going as well. An infectious disease like Ebola triggers concerns about shipping, air travel, and, of course, quarantine, search, and seizure.

Today’s news that a Texas hospital has diagnosed a patient already in the United States was inevitable-and provides an opportunity to throw a legal spotlight on the laws of quarantine and isolation.   As a matter of Constitutional Law, the President of the United States can take any measure necessary to protect the nation’s security, remember President Bush’s plan to use the military to control pandemic flu (see an overview from the CRS or the plan itself), or interstate commerce, but only individual states have the power to take action addressing health issues that do not threaten the safety of the country as a whole.   That’s because individual states, but not the federal government, retain “police power” to promote the health of their citizens even in the absence of a threat to others. Here’s a helpful article. This overview of emergency legal powers, specific to Ebola, comes from the Robert Wood Johnson foundation supported Network for Public Health. Here is some more general information comparing state and federal authority from the CDC and a great overview from the Congressional Research Service. While Ebola itself is low on the list of the scariest diseases we in the U.S. risk catching (here’s a list from for those who don’t have enough to worry about), it is interesting to see how quickly it happened given that estimates of only a few weeks ago were that the probability was no more than 25%. Here’s how Vox explained it using visuals.  This is an on-going story-and should test the resources and skills of the Dallas County Health Department–and provide a live public health lesson to the country.

Waiting for Hobby Lobby–A brief refresher of the issues

Cross post from healthlawprof blog

Jennifer S. Bard

Since the likelihood is that many readers of this blog will be asked to comment when the Supreme Court, some time this week, announces its decision in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialty cases here’s a brief refresher and some links.  The cases are challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers who choose to offer health insurance to their employees must provide policies that include ten essential benefits-including contraception.  The U.S. Supreme Court has heard oral arguments and read the briefs—it’s likely that whatever opinion is issued will reflect at least some of the arguments presented to the Court.

This case is about the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers who offer their employees health insurance must include ten essential benefits, including contraception.  Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are privately held, for-profit companies whose owners have sincerely held religious objections to providing four specific kinds of contraception.  They believe these contraceptives terminate rather than prevent pregnancy.  Many religious organizations and companies have gotten exemptions to these requirements, but this case considers whether private, for-profit companies should qualify as well.

The cases raise three major issues:

  1. Does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act apply to corporations even though it uses the word “person?” (Can companies have religious beliefs?)
  2. Is providing insurance that covers birth control a “substantial burden?” on these two company’s’ religious beliefs?
  3. Does the government have a compelling reason for requiring companies that provide insurance to have it cover birth control?

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Lax Enforcement of Vaccine Laws Put Young Adults at Risk

The news about the return of dangerous “childhood” illnesses gets worse and worse. Columbus, Ohio reports an outbreak of 225 cases—with over 50% students at Ohio State University.   It is probably no coincidence that Ohio State recommends but does not require students (outside of those in healthcare settings) be vaccinated in order to attend class.   It’s not just Mumps.  We are seeing cases of preventable diseases like measles and mumps and whooping cough because of parental decisions not to immunize their children but there is increasing evidence that the immunizations most adults received as infants or young children wear off—leaving the population at large vulnerable to infection once an outbreak occurs. Science Daily just reported a confirmed case of a fully vaccinated young woman contracting measles.  The CDC has not yet recommended that adults get booster shots for Mumps and Measles—although they have in some circumstances for Whooping Cough and Polio.  But the more likely it is for a person to be exposed to these diseases, the more important it is to be fully vaccinated.

So why is the law to blame here?  Read More