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Health Care Law

Health care law is a complex area of law, touching on various issues in our society. Health care law includes different areas of the law, including contracts, torts, intellectual property, and civil rights law. This area of law covers the vast health care industry and policy. This includes hospitals, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, governmental agencies, and nursing homes. It also covers health policy, health care delivery, medical devices, and device manufacturers.

Public health is a state and federal issue. There are various types of laws in place that deal with specific issues, such as privacy and payments to physicians with regard to patient care, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS).

The Health Law Section of Findlaw offers resources on state and federal laws that protect patients. These resources include articles on patient rights, informed consent, and medical marijuana laws.

Patient Rights

Many state and federal laws protect patients' rights. These laws cover various areas related to medical care, patient records, and healthcare services. For example, under informed consent laws, medical professionals must disclose the potential risks, benefits, and alternatives to treatment. The physician must then get the patient's written consent before proceeding.

Patients have a right to privacy over their protected health information under HIPAA's Privacy Rule. Under HIPAA, patients have a right to see, examine and request changes to their records.

Regulatory Agencies

Several federal laws regulate different aspects of our health care system. After Congress passes healthcare legislation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) carries it out. Consider HIPAA, for example. Congress passed HIPAA in 2009, and HHS enforces this law through its Office for Civil Rights.

The Food and Drug Administration, another governmental agency, regulates many of the products, food, and drugs we use on a daily basis. The FDA regulates medical devices, vaccines, blood, and biologics. It regulates drugs through the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). The CDER approves drugs before pharmaceutical companies can sell a drug to the public.

Health Care Regulations

There are several federal health care regulations that help protect patients. Here are a few of these regulations:

  • HIPAA protects patients' privacy rights. This means health care organizations and health care professionals cannot use your protected health information without your consent.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps ensure all Americans have access to health care.
  • The Health Information Technology and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) addresses the privacy and security concerns associated with the electronic transmission of health information. HITECH is an HHS initiative.
  • The Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) protects patients by ensuring physicians do not accept payment in exchange for making certain referrals.
  • The False Claims Act (FCA) regulates healthcare fraud. The FCA applies to anyone "who knowingly submits, or causes to submit, false claims to the government."

Medicare and Medicaid

Anyone who has fallen ill or made a trip to the emergency room knows how expensive medical treatment is. Unsurprisingly, many Americans need help paying the high costs of health care. That's where Medicare and Medicaid come in. Medicare is available to senior citizens. Medicaid is available to low-income Americans of any age. It also covers pregnant women, low-income elderly persons, and people with disabilities.

Americans who are at least 65 years old are eligible for Medicare benefits. While Part A of Medicare covers essential medical services, Part B is an optional supplemental plan. Medicaid covers the basic health care costs of people earning below a certain income level.

Health Care Attorneys

As our health care system grows in complexity, there is an increased need for health care lawyers well-versed in health care law. This includes medical malpractice, bioethics, and health advocacy. More law schools now offer health law programs so law students can focus on this area of law.

Get Help

Health care law is vast and complex. An experienced health care attorney can help with anything from medical malpractice to reporting fraud. Speak to a local healthcare attorney today.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified health care attorney to help navigate legal issues around your health care.

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