Physicians are frequently positioned as the leaders of medicine. As such, their jobs may often intersect with health law and policy. Consider the recent attempts to change the Affordable Care Act. Many doctors were very vocal on the subject, writing opinion pieces, appealing to their congressmen and sharing their views on social media.
Consider too the way the government is responding to the opioid crisis. Federal and state legislators are deciding who can access the overdose-reversing drug Naxalone, as well as how much taxpayer money to spend in response to this epidemic.
Physicians’ voices should be heard during these debates. As experts in both primary care and disease, your experience is critical in addressing health care policies across the nation. The law has critical implications for modern medicine, and while your expertise adds much to the discussion, studying health law and policy can also make you a better caregiver and advocate for public health.
What an education in health law and policy can do for you
Studying health law and policy can reveal how your job intersects with legal areas, allowing you to provide better care for your patients. The knowledge you obtain can help you understand how legal health matters affect your patients’ ability to seek and pay for care. For example, changing Medicare requirements might affect how you treat patients of certain demographics. You might also use your legal knowledge to help others get the care they need.
Furthermore, knowledge of health care policies and law can give you the tools to advocate on behalf of your patients. Your background in physiology, biology and medical treatment combined with knowledge of law and policy can help you predict how proposed legal structures might affect public health. Your experience also adds validity to your claims, helping you see issues that lawyers and lawmakers might overlook. As a physician, you may also have knowledge of medical journals to support your statements, which, with your health care law and policy education, you can then present to a legal audience.
Studying this area can also better equip you to answer patient questions regarding changing health care law. Many people turn to their doctors when public health dominates the news (such as the aforementioned ACA debates and the opioid epidemic). They may be less likely to consult lawyers and insurance companies. Doctors are seen as trustworthy and focused on their patients’ well-being, so your patients may feel more comfortable hearing about legal matters from you. Your ability to answer such questions contributes to the quality of care and level of satisfaction you provide your patients.
Finally, a health law and policy background can help you better understand the legal intricacies that shape your profession. You’ll study how judges and lawmakers come to health-related conclusions that affect individuals and the nation as a whole. This may also improve your job satisfaction — navigating legal matters as a physician may still be difficult, but at least you’ll understand the process.
On that note, studying policy can give you a competitive edge when searching for health law careers or when leveraging your talents to achieve a raise or promotion. Because this type of program is more specialized than administration or public health, you’re able to apply for more specific job listings. You’re also better qualified to meet the increased demand for health law specialists, which has grown due to the implementation of the ACA and the attempts to alter it. In addition, a degree in health care law can be a benefit when applying for some of the highest-paying jobs in this field, such as public health attorney, HIPAA privacy officer, compliance director or corporate counsel.
Classes you should take when studying for a health law and policy degree
Whether as prerequisites or electives, taking the following classes can help you enter new health law careers, take a higher position at your current job or simply respond to lawmakers with concerns over proposed changes:
Introduction to the American Legal System/Understanding Statutes and Regulations
This course covers how laws are made, interpreted and applied. Such a foundation helps you better understand the legal system and the process that medical laws go through.
Understanding Medicare and Medicaid Law
Taking this course helps you understand the history and objectives of these programs as well as how they’ve changed over the years. You can then use critical thinking to see what effects future alterations may have on your patients and the nation as a whole.
Law of Medical Product Discovery, Development and Commercialization
You recommend a variety of products to your patients while working as a physician, including medications and medical devices. How these devices are produced and marketed is relevant to your career. Consider the recent scandals where drug manufacturers increased the price of live-saving medications, or the controversy surrounding Theranos. Knowing how such situations came to pass — as well as how policymakers respond — can help you protect future patients and work to close the loopholes that allow for such events to occur.
Finding the right health care law program for you
Choosing a graduate health care law program is not a decision to make lightly. Not only do you want one taught by expert faculty, but you also want a convenient curriculum designed for modern professionals.
Hofstra Law’s online Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy program can be the educational experience that propels your career as a physical or a medical legal professional. The program is delivered completely online, offers three start dates each year and has no residency requirements, allowing you to continue working while you earn your degree. In addition, you do not need any legal experience to apply.
To find out more about the curriculum and how you can apply, visit the program page.