Saturday, May 3, 2014
Why Sen. Elizabeth Warren's Memoir is of Special Interest to Health Profs
I'm a guest over at prawfsblog this month--come visit-and my posting today was about why law professors should be interested in Sen. Elizabeth Warren's new memoir. You can read the whole pitch below--it includes that it's a funny, warm, well-written and interesting account of a remarkably successful career. I also noted how important her efforts at fixing student loan debt are as a platform on which to build needed change in higher education. Finally, she has very interesting things to say about balancing work and family as well as going beyond the classroom to help the individuals affected by the law she studied. At a recent executive board meeting of the AALS Section on Law, Medicine and Health Care, current chair Dr. Ani Satz noted that there are not many mechanisms for recognizing that kind of service. (side note--consider yourself warmly invited to the terrific panels our chair elect, Dr. Thad Pope, has organized for us to present and co-sponsor, more information to come).
But for a health prof audience, I'd also point out that she discusses her empirical work (with a team of top social scientists--she didn't do the math herself) that finally demonstrated the major flaw in our employer based health insurance system. Medical bills turned out to be the leading cause of bankruptcy--and very often among families already insured. Either their insurance was inadequate (maybe we should get these folks together with the people who are upset they can't keep their "old" plans) or, worse, their illness meant they could no longer work. Whether the debt came directly from medical bills or from using credit cards and home equity loans to pay the bills--the results were equally catastrophic.
That this actually happens--that medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy--is as far as I know not currently disputed. But I'd be remiss in this context not to point out that as part of the opposition research arising from her running to Senate-the Breitbart blog has made available a series of angry accusations from the 1990's of misconduct about that study.
It will be a while before we see if the Affordble Care Act is going to do much to fix this problem--and predictions are mixed. See this as opposed to this. There's a federal study finding bankruptcies down in Massachusetts following Romneycare. Common sense suggests that changes like no exclusions for pre-existing conditions and the lift of lifetime caps will make things better (for people with plans bound by those provisions).
But although certainly not usually described as such, Sen. Warren is, if not a Health Law Prof, certainly one whose work is very important to us.