Health law is the wide body of law that regulates the provision of healthcare services. Health law governs the relationship between those who provide healthcare and those who receive it. There are many topics and subtopics involved in the provision of healthcare law including provision of services, contracts, employment law and fraud. Health lawyers may focus on one area of healthcare law, or they may provide comprehensive legal services for a healthcare provider.
Major health law legislation in the United States
There are a number of key federal laws that influence health services in the United States:
Social Security Amendments of 1965
The Social Security Amendments of 1965 establish the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs. Medicare provides government-funded health insurance to qualifying seniors. Medicare exists because seniors may have a hard time securing health insurance in the private market. Medicaid is government-sponsored health insurance for low-income individuals. Each state administers their own Medicaid program based on federal guidelines.
Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986 requires healthcare providers to deliver medical services to anyone in an emergency situation. A health services provider may not refuse to provide services based on a person’s inability to pay. The healthcare provider must stabilize the individual or transfer them to a facility that can offer appropriate services.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires health services providers to keep personal health information private. Providers must allow patients to access their own medical records. HIPPA creates strict rules about when providers can share a patient’s treatment information. The purpose of the law is to help individuals receive better care knowing that their information must be kept confidential.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act allows individuals and families to keep group health insurance in place for a certain period of time following a change in employment for covered reasons. Because private health insurance is often provided by an employer, a person who loses their job may find themselves and their family suddenly lacking health insurance. COBRA laws require the employer to continue to keep the employee on the group plan for a period of time after their employment ends. The provision of coverage is at the employee’s own expense. Although individuals electing COBRA may have to pay the cost of the premium, COBRA laws allow individuals to keep their health insurance in place while they go through a personal change and make new arrangements.