HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, February 22, 2013

Call for Papers and Panelists - Beyond Roe:Reproductive Justice in a Changing World

Throughout 2013, five law schools in the Delaware Valley will hold events exploring various aspects of reproductive justice in the 40 years post-Roe v. Wade. The final event in this series is a conference sponsored by the Rutgers School of Law – Camden that will take place on Friday, October 11 on the Rutgers campus in Camden, New Jersey.* You can find more information about the conference here.  

We are now pleased to invite proposals for papers and panels. The conference theme is Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World. We welcome submissions on any topic related to the law, policy and reproduction, including avoiding reproduction, public policy related to reproduction, and reproductive regulation post-Roe.

Paper abstracts should be no more than 500 words, accompanied by a descriptive title for the paper proposed. Proposed panels should include a description of the overall topic, as well as a panel title and the titles of all the papers and panelists to be included in the panel.  Panels should include no less than 4 proposed panelists. Panel proposals should also be no more than 500 words. All submissions must include the names, e-mail addresses, and full affiliations of all authors.  In the case of panels and co-authored papers, please identify a corresponding author and provide sufficient detail in your abstract or proposal so that reviewers can fully assess your proposal and determine how it will fit with other proposals being reviewed.  

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February 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Penn Health System to Stop Hiring Smokers

Right on the heels of Frank's thought-provoking post yesterday "Get Wellness Soon--Or Else," comes this story from The American Journal of Bioethics:

The University of Pennsylvania Health System will no longer hire smokers and other tobacco users, starting in July.  The system, which includes the Hospital of the University of Penn., said the policy would improve the health of its workforce and reduce the cost of health-care benefits.


February 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Health Insurance Market Rules Published

Its been a busy week for ACA implementation. A few days ago we saw the Essential Helath Benefits rule, here. Today, HHS issued the final regulations for health insurance markets, here. As noted in the Executive Summary, "Beginning in 2014, health insurance issuers will be prohibited from denying coverage … because of a pre-existing condition, and from charging individuals and small employers higher premiums based on health status or gender. In addition, health insurance issuers will no longer be able to segment enrollees into separate rating pools in order to charge high-risk individuals more than low-risk individuals." The final regulation has the following components:

  • (1) provides that health insurance issuers may vary the premium rate for health insurance coverage in the individual and small group markets only based on family size, geography, and age and tobacco use within limits
  • (2) directs health insurance issuers to offer coverage to and accept every employer or individual who applies for coverage in the group and individual market, subject to certain exceptions
  • (3) directs health insurance issuers to renew or continue in force coverage in the group and individual market, subject to certain exceptions
  • (4) codifies the requirement that issuers maintain a single risk pool for the individual market and a single risk pool for the small group market (unless a state decides to merge the markets into a single risk pool)
  • (5) outlines standards for enrollment in catastrophic plans for young adults and people who cannot otherwise afford health insurance.


February 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Get Wellness Soon--Or Else

There is a good debate in the WSJ on the wellness programs recently promoted by PPACA. Market-oriented thinkers have long promoted the “nanny corporation” to exertinfluence over workers’ lives. But as Lydia Mitts notes, this may be disadvantaging certain people:

A workplace wellness program in Wisconsin increased overweight employees’ premiums by more than $100 a month if they didn’t meet goals such as losing weight, which evidence shows can be very challenging. That kind of increase creates a real cost barrier for many families. The last thing a wellness program should do is make health coverage less affordable for those with greater health risk factors and whose health could most benefit from certain health services. Studies have found that being uninsured or underinsured leads people to delay or forgo needed care, making them sicker—and their health care costs higher—down the line.

On the other hand, it could be quite rational for an individual corporation to alienate and browbeat the people whom it sees as most likely to drive up its health care costs, as long as it can avoid running afoul of disability laws. The higher health care costs “down the line” may then rest on the balance sheet of the next employer—or the government.


February 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wisdom from an Oncologist

I recently came across blog posts of James Salwitz, an oncologist. Reflecting on end of life issues, he had this to say

There are obstacles to dignity at the end of life.  Disease inflicted pain and debilitation, cost and confusion, poor planning and fear, all aggravated by our societal ignorance regarding dying, result in unneeded suffering and isolation.  

We barely have enough time to take care of our families and get through our normal day-to-day existence. We spend our lives sprinting from fast food restaurants, down high velocity freeways, to hectic jobs, through rushed relationships and finally grab too little sedated sleep, before we pick up the race again.  Gaps, during which we might reflect, are filled with electro-grout via high speed Internet in dozens of shades, be it email, tweet, face or video. We live without self-reflection, life contemplation or honest communication. . . . Therefore, when a complex medical problem occurs and we have not taken the time to prepare, we must make decisions while exhausted and frightened.

The social acceleration of time has wrecked many contemporary institutions.  Salwitz is wise to suggest that, at the most critical moments of the caring process, health policy should promote more opportunities to reflect.  We are too prone to think about informed consent doctrine (or clinical decision guides) as "slowing things down" in a negative way.  Salwitz helps us see the positive side of slow.


February 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lobbying by EHR Vendors

Also worth reading today--Julie Creswell's story in the New York Times about the profits being reaped by EHR vendors through government incentives.  Creswell documents "soaring profits" and "Wall Street style" paydays in the wake of the stimulus package.  One of her concerns is the extent to which larger--she argues, less innovative--companies have been able to crowd out smaller competitors, with the help of certification requirements.  Ironically, innovation has been used as the primary argument for flexibility as the requirements for meaningful use phase in.  It will be a shame if the promise of EHRs is another casualty of the role of profits in US health care.


February 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Essential Health Benefits

HHS has published the final rule on essential health benefits, here. [NPT]

February 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 17, 2013


A few years ago, I noted that the American Medical Association/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) has a dominant role in suggesting payment levels to CMS.  It raises hard questions about price-setting in the health care sector, many of which cannot be answered because its processes are opaque.  Now we know that judicial relief will not improve things any time soon.  As Brian Klepper reports, "On January 7, a federal appeals court rejected six Georgia primary care physicians’ (PCPs) challenge to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) 20-year, sole-source relationship with the secretive, specialist-dominated federal advisory committee that determines the relative value of medical services."  What was the complaint? 

The core of the ... physicians’ legal challenge was that the RUC is a “de facto Federal Advisory Committee,” and therefore subject to the stringent accountability requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). This law ensures that federal bodies have panel compositions that are numerically representative of their constituencies, that their proceedings are open, and that methodologies are scientifically credible. In other words, FACA ensures that advisory practices are aligned with the public interest.

The RUC adheres to none of these and is an object lesson in how special interests can be insinuated into and capture regulatory processes, displacing the public interest. For example, when the legal challenge was first filed, only 3 of 29 RUC panelists (10 percent) represented primary care, even though some 30 percent of US physicians practice primary care. RUC meetings are closed to the public, unless an invitation is extended by the Chair, and admission is tied to the guest signing a nondisclosure agreement. Determination of a procedure’s value has been based on as few as 30 survey responses by physicians who know that their reimbursement will be linked to how they have answered the questions.

This is a sad example of opacity in health pricing. In ordinary markets, publicity would tend to narrow the price differential between similar quality services.  In health care, however, there is a triple layer of agency between care and patients whose physicians’ recommendations are often constrained by an insurer that is chosen by the patient’s employer or government. Even if we assume away the agency problems in such an arrangement, it is difficult for buyers and sellers to truly understand “market” dynamics, or even the governmental processes that underlie them.


February 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)