hospital equipment, including heart rate monitor and oxygen monitor functioning at bedside.

Why COVID-19 is a Chronic Health Concern for the US

By Daniel Aaron

The U.S. government has ratified a record-breaking $2 trillion stimulus package just as it has soared past 100,000 coronavirus cases and 1,500 deaths (as of March 27). The U.S. now has the most cases of any country—this despite undercounting due to continuing problems in testing Americans on account of various scientific and policy failures.

Coronavirus has scared Americans. Public health officials and physicians are urging people to stay at home because this disease kills. Many have invoked the language of war, implying a temporary battle against a foreign foe. This framing, though it may galvanize quick support, disregards our own systematic policy failures to prevent, test, and trace coronavirus, and the more general need to solve important policy problems.

Coronavirus is an acute problem at the individual level, but nationally it represents a chronic concern. No doubt, developing innovative ways to increase the number of ventilators, recruit health care workers, and improve hospital capacity will save lives in the short-term — despite mixed messages from the federal government. But a long-term perspective is needed to address the serious problems underlying our country’s systemic failures across public health.

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a crowd of people shuffling through a sidewalk

Lost in the Shuffle: The Impact of COVID-19 on Immigrants in Need

The recommendations for healthy people who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the illness caused by the corona virus called SARS-Co-V2, is to stay at home, get plenty of rest, drink fluids and control fever and body-aches with a non-steroidal medication. For people with pre-existing medical conditions, the elderly or those with more serious symptoms, an evaluation by a healthcare provider is warranted. This is a reasonable recommendation given that for most healthy people, the symptoms are uncomfortable but not life-threatening. There is a population however, that regardless of the severity of their illness, may stay at home and not seek medical care, even when things are serious. Fear of arrest and deportation is a real issue for undocumented immigrants and calling an ambulance or going to a hospital can put them at risk for these actions. The result is that some very sick people may not seek appropriate medical care. In addition, they may be taken care of by people that don’t have the appropriate personal protection, putting even more people at risk.

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, USA - JUNE 8, 2019: First ever Medicare for All rally led by Bernie Sanders held in The Loop of Chicago. Crowd holds up a sign that says "Medicare for All Saves Lives".

Medicare for the Poor

By David Orentlicher

While Medicare-for-All has proved controversial, every Democratic presidential candidate should embrace one of its key elements—folding the Medicaid program into the Medicare program. That would be much better for patients, doctors, and hospitals. It also would be much better for public school children.

Medicare would be a much better program for patients, doctors, and hospitals in several ways. Lower-income families suffer because Medicaid is a federal-state partnership, and some states have stingier Medicaid programs than do other states. In particular, Florida, Texas, and twelve other states have not signed up for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, leaving more than two million lower-income Americans uninsured. Under our current Medicaid system, access to health care for the indigent depends where they live. Folding Medicaid into Medicare would give the poor access to health care in every state.

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The Ostrich Syndrome and Patient Safety

By John Tingle

Sadly, the NHS (National Health Service) in England is littered with examples of cases where individuals and organisations have seemingly buried their heads in the sand when patient safety errors have occurred. Attitudes that can be seen in past reports range from,’ it’s not my responsibility’, to procrastination, or passing the buck, assuming that another organisation is dealing with the matter or just simply delaying a response or even ignoring the situation completely.

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A calculator, a stethoscope, and a stack of money rest on a table.

Why Our Health Care Is Incomplete: Review of “Exposed” (Part II)

By: Daniel Aaron

Just last month, Professor Christopher T. Robertson, at the University of Arizona College of Law, released his new book about health care, entitled Exposed: Why Our Health Insurance Is Incomplete and What Can Be Done About It. Part II of this book review offers an analytical discussion of “cost exposure,” the main subject of his book with a focus on solutions. Read Part I here.

Baby solutions

Prof. Robertson writes two chapters on solutions. In the first, titled “Fixes We Could Try,” he offers reforms, from mild to moderate, that would make cost exposure less harmful. The chapter largely retains the analytical nature of the prior chapters, but it comes across like a chapter he might have rather not written. This is evident in the following chapter’s title, “What We Must Do.” It’s also evident because some of the proposals do not seem fully considered, and in some ways appear more controversial than the more comprehensive solution offered later. Read More

A calculator, a stethoscope, and a stack of money rest on a table.

Why Our Health Care Is Incomplete: Review of “Exposed” (Part I)

By: Daniel Aaron

Just last month, Professor Christopher T. Robertson, at the University of Arizona College of Law, released his new book about health care, entitled Exposed: Why Our Health Insurance Is Incomplete and What Can Be Done About It. This book review will offer an analytical discussion of “cost exposure,” the main subject of his book.

What is cost exposure in health care?

Cost exposure is payments people make related to their medical care. There are many ways patients pay – here are a few common ones.

  • Deductible – Patient is responsible for the first, say, $5,000 of their medical care; after this point, the health insurance kicks in. Resets each year.
  • Copay – Patient pays a specific amount, say $25, when having an episode of care.
  • Coinsurance – Patient pays a specified percentage, say 20%, of care.

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An index finger rests on one yellow star while four other stars are shaded to the right, indicating a one star review.

Improving the Mindset on NHS Complaint Handling

By John Tingle

History has not served the NHS (National Health Service) complaints system well

History has not served the NHS complaints system well. There have been many reports about NHS complaints going back well over two and a half decades, saying the same or similar things about the system. Many have argued and continue to argue that the NHS complaints system needs to be much more responsive, simpler in operation and less defensive. It is fair comment to argue today that the NHS complaints system is still plagued with endemic and systemic problems. The NHS has never been able to gets its health care complaints system right.

Two contemporary reports, one published in 2018 and the other in 2020, give support to the view that the NHS needs to do much more to improve how patient complaints are handled. Read More

Ambassador-at-Large Deborah Birx giving a speech from a podium with an American flag and PEPFAR banner in the background

One of the Biggest Public Health Initiatives in History: PEPFAR and HIV

By Daniel Aaron

In October, the Petrie-Flom Center hosted a conference of world-leading experts in HIV/AIDS to discuss one of the biggest public health successes in history: PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR was launched in 2003 in response to a burgeoning global epidemic of HIV. The program offered $2 billion annually, rising to about $7 billion in 2019, to surveil, diagnose, treat, and reduce transmission of HIV around the world.

PEPFAR prevented what could have become an exponentially growing epidemic. It is estimated to have saved more than 17 million lives and avoided millions of new HIV infections. As a result, the speakers at the conference were quick to extol the virtues of the program. Professor Ashish Jha called it an “unmitigated success”; Professor Marc C. Elliott named it a “historic effort”; Dr. Ingrid Katz described PEPFAR as “nothing short of miraculous.”

However, several undercurrents within the conference, as well as more explicit points made by several panelists, suggested the importance of enlarging the discussion beyond PEPFAR itself to include other policies that impact HIV and AIDS, and even other diseases.

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Illustration of a family and large clipboard with items in a list checked off. All are underneath a large blue umbrella

Universal Coverage Does Not Mean Single Payer

This post is part of our Eighth Annual Health Law Year in P/Review symposium. You can read all of the posts in the series here. Review the conference’s full agenda and register for the event on the Petrie-Flom Center’s website.

By Joseph Antos, American Enterprise Institute

Health spending in every major developed country is substantially below that of the U.S., and measured health outcomes appear to be better. Progressives have jumped to the conclusion that adopting single-payer health care would yield a simpler system in which everyone is covered, costs are reduced, and outcomes are improved. The truth is far more complicated.

Most other countries have a mix of public and private coverage. One size does not fit all, even in Europe. The government is the predominant purchaser of medical services in Canada and the U.K. In France and Australia, the government is the primary purchase but many people purchase private supplemental coverage. The government subsidizes individually-purchased insurance in Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Germany relies on employer coverage, akin to employer-sponsored coverage in the U.S. Read More

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New TWIHL with Erin Fuse Brown and Elizabeth McCuskey

Erin Fuse Brown and Elizabeth McCuskey have a fantastic new article coming out in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review entitled “Federalism, ERISA, and State Single-Payer Health Care” that is the subject of our conversation.

Erin Fuse Brown is a Professor of Law at Georgia State University’s College of law. She teaches Administrative Law; Health Law: Financing & Delivery; and the Health Care Transactional & Regulatory Practicum. She is a faculty member of the Center for Law, Health & Society. In 2019 Professor Fuse Brown was awarded a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to study out-of-network air ambulance bills. She served as co-investigator on a grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute from 2014-2017 to study legal protections for participants in genomic research and in 2017 won the Patricia T. Morgan Award for Outstanding Scholarship among her faculty. Elizabeth McCuskey is a Professor Law at UMass School of Law, There she teaches Civil Procedure, Health Law, Food & Drug Law, and Health Care Antitrust courses. Her research focuses on regulatory reforms for health equity and courts’ roles in securing those reforms. She is broadly published and her work on ERISA preemption and state health reform was featured on Health Affairs Blog and she has covered FDA preemption for SCOTUSBlog. She was a 2016 ASLME Health Law Scholar.

The Week in Health Law Podcast from Nicolas Terry is a commuting-length discussion about some of the more thorny issues in health law and policy. Subscribe at Apple Podcasts or Google Play, listen at Stitcher Radio, SpotifyTunein or Podbean.

Show notes and more are at TWIHL.com. If you have comments, an idea for a show or a topic to discuss you can find me on Twitter @nicolasterry or @WeekInHealthLaw.