Lawyers may not be in the operating theater or administering crucial medicine, but they’re a vital component of the country’s more than $3.5 trillion (and growing) health care system.
The William S. Boyd School of Law’s Health Law Program was started in partnership with the School of Public Health in 2013 to train the next generation of lawyers to help patients, doctors, insurance companies, and lawmakers untangle that web.
Founding director and professor Stacey Tovino recalls her own naivete as a law student at the University of Houston; she actually worried about getting a job in the field. She hadn’t even graduated before the job offers started coming in. “Regardless of whether the economy is booming or is in a recession, patients get sick, insurers have to pay, doctors and nurses get sued and it is a recession-proof industry.
Now under the leadership of current director David Orentlicher, the program, which has eight graduates to date, has already seen an impact in the state. Dr. Paul Janda a neurologist and 2016 graduate of the program, helped work on a bill that updated Nevada’s definition of brain death. The program aims to be an expert resource for policymakers in key areas. In the past two years it has hosted symposiums on the opioid crisis, cost containment in health care to reform, and this year’s symposium will consider health care reform and the 2020 election. Program speakers have discussed surprise medical bills for out-of-network care and the impact of legislation affecting motherhood and abortion.
The program is maturing as the region’s healthcare infrastructure expands with the launch of the UNLV School of Medicine. The need for Nevada health lawyers has grown to cover issues as varied as physician employment contracts to joint operating agreements to privacy regulation, fraud, waste, and the high-tech rules that govern patient records.
“When the health law program first started out, we were teaching the students just the basics,” Tovino said. “But now that the healthcare industry in Las Vegas is growing, the doctors and hospitals want to do all sorts of things that are legally complex. Many federal and state health laws heavily regulate these activities. Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty stuff. It’s such an exciting time for health care and health law in Las Vegas.”