A career in health law offers a diverse set of options. Some lawyers in this practice area handle legal issues arising from LIFE SCIENCE research and development. Others represent HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS. Still others analyze health policy and advocate for REFORM of the HEALTH CARE SYSTEM.
LIFE SCIENCE attorneys represent private companies and research institutions engaged in developing new compounds and technologies that advance the biosciences and the products and methods used in delivery of health care. This work ranges from pure research to the commercialization of new drugs and devices, so the lawyer’s focus also covers a varied spectrum. Non-profit research clients may need legal assistance with cutting-edge ethical issues or with restrictions in funding and research grants. Commercial clients need help with regulatory approvals and legal protection for their technical innovations, as well as the full range of business and financial issues facing for-profit enterprises.
Regulatory compliance is an even more important area for lawyers who represent HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS. Like other lawyers working with business organizations, they may assist clients with commercial transactions or litigation arising from commercial disputes but most legal work for these clients also involves some regulatory overlay. Almost every aspect of the delivery of health care is regulated by federal and state governments, from the standard of care used by health care organizations to the licensing and credentialing of service professionals. Also heavily regulated are the relationships among patients, providers and the entities that pay providers for their services, such as private insurance companies or the large public reimbursement programs, like Medicare and Medicaid. Insurance coverage and the privacy of patient information are areas of increasing regulatory focus, as the federal government seeks to develop national standards of coverage and health records management.
Lawyers who advocate for REFORM of the health care system itself focus more on policy concerns than on commercial and intellectual property issues. They need to have a solid background in economics and policy studies to contribute and respond to the current debates about expanding access to health care and how to sustain the financial viability of the health care system itself.
Whichever career option you choose in the Health Care field, it is essential to have a multidisciplinary perspective. Even more than in other practice areas, health care lawyers must deal with a wide range of political, social and economic concerns.
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