Law school adds health care policy program

The GW Law School will launch a health law and policy program this fall that looks to address the future of the health care industry, after receiving a $1 million donation in November, the school’s dean announced Friday.

As the debate over the 2010 health care reform law heads to the Supreme Court in March, Dean Paul Schiff Berman said the school wants to ramp up its focus on the area to keep up with the demand for lawyers to help shape health care. The donation will go toward creating a juris doctor degree and a master of laws degree.

“The rationale for it is, if you look at the key drivers for America’s economic future, clearly one of them is health care,” Berman, who stepped into the deanship in June, said. “I want GW to be a major national player on the intersection between law and policy.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, championed by President Barack Obama and derided by Republicans in Congress, has faced legal criticism for its individual mandate, which requires people to pay a small fine if they do not purchase health insurance.

Students will need to know the ins and outs of health laws, Berman said, as the individual mandate’s constitutionality is challenged and health insurers face stricter oversight.

“What I’m focusing on is: How are we going to design the health care system? How are we going to make sure hospitals are funded? How is Medicare going forth? What happens with the affordable care act?” Berman said. “Whether the act gets struck down or not, more attention will be paid to health care over the coming years.”

Berman said the donor for the program wanted to remain anonymous and had no prior affiliation to the University. Another $5 million to $10 million will need to be fundraised over the next 10 months to get the program underway, he added.

Health law and policy professor Sara Rosenbaum and law professor Sonia Suter will help design the program.

“Such a program would provide our students with opportunities to meet and work with practitioners and policymakers in this area,” Suter said. “Those kinds of experiences would enrich the classroom experience, expose students to a wider range of issues in this vast and growing area and enable them to develop contacts during their legal education that will be invaluable when they look for jobs upon graduation.”

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