Healthcare law concerns who can receive healthcare, and who should pay for it. This is a surprisingly complicated area of law given how expensive healthcare can be. In fact, Americans spent $3.65 trillion on healthcare in 2018 alone. This makes healthcare one of the largest and most heavily-regulated industries in the United States. An industry this large — and so closely tied to human health and survival — has many complexities. And where there are regulations and complexities, there are attorneys.
Why Healthcare Law Is Growing
Healthcare law is a growing field because there is plenty of legal work to be done within the healthcare industry. For starters, the regulatory maze that oversees nearly all aspects of healthcare is nearly impossible for non-lawyers to navigate. Additionally, in recent years, state and federal governments have been cracking down on healthcare fraud and abuse in an effort to reclaim the billions of dollars in losses, so being in compliance with these regulations is more important than ever.
Antitrust laws are also being enforced more vigorously, and hospitals and healthcare associations are often accused of illegal practices like conspiring to fix salaries of nurses and other medical employees.
Other issues like bioethics, kickbacks, privacy, and licensing also have legal underpinnings that are keeping healthcare lawyers very busy.
Finally, the cost of healthcare continues to rise, while the U.S. population continues to age, suggesting that the industry won’t be slowing down any time soon.
What Does a Healthcare Lawyer Do?
While many areas of law are stagnant or shrinking, healthcare law is growing all the more important. But what exactly do healthcare lawyers do?
Healthcare lawyers represent a broad range of healthcare professionals and entities such as hospital chains, nursing homes, clinics, home health agencies, pharmacies, clinical laboratories, physician groups, health insurers, physicians, nurses, and medical staff.
The work healthcare lawyers do often touches on a variety of niche areas of the law, including but not limited to corporate, regulatory administrative, securities, contracts, commercial, tax, litigation, professional malpractice, and bioethics. Healthcare law is well suited for attorneys who like variety in their work and don’t shy away from complexity.
Fraud and Abuse
Many healthcare lawyers devote their practices to helping providers avoid allegations of healthcare fraud or abuse. Many providers depend on Medicare and Medicaid payment for much of their revenue. In fact, nearly every healthcare transaction can have fraud or abuse implications that are often overlooked by non-lawyers who do not have a clear understanding of applicable federal laws such as the anti-kickback law, the Stark anti-referral law, and the federal False Claims Act.