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What is Health Care Law?

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 the United States. Furthermore, the laws concerning who health insurance companies can and must cover are constantly changing as policymakers attempt to find a way to provide health care to the greatest amount of people at the least cost.

Since healthcare is so expensive, several government programs help people in the U.S. pay for medical services, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Disability Insurance. Lawyers help patients apply for benefits and ensure that patients receive the payments to which they are entitled.

Healthcare attorneys also help families plan for long term care and elder care. As people begin to live longer, their medical care typically becomes more and more expensive. In addition, these elderly patients often lose the mental or physical capacity to care for themselves. Families can plan ahead by setting aside money for medical costs, creating a living will, and deciding which kind of long term care service to use before the need arises.

Finally, healthcare attorneys work with medical providers and patients to ensure that patients' rights are respected. This includes the right to informed consent, which requires doctors to educate you about your medical options before you make a decision, and a patients' right to privacy in their medical records. Healthcare law also governs what procedures doctors may or may not perform. Particularly controversial procedures include assisted suicide and abortion.

Terms to Know

  • Estate Plan: A collection of documents which determines what happens to someone's assets after she passes away and creates a plan in case that person becomes incapacitated later in life.
  • Trust: A legal arrangement in which someone's assets are placed in another person's care for the benefit of a third person. It can be a useful way to plan for future medical costs.
  • Living Will: A legal document that describes a patient's medical preferences and is used when that patient is unable to direct his own medical care.
  • Power of Attorney: A legal document which designates someone to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of someone else.
  • HIPAA: The law which requires medical providers to keep patient data confidential.
  • The Affordable Care Act: A law which requires employers to provide health insurance for their employees and required individuals who are not covered by employers to obtain their own insurance.
  • Managed Care: A Medicare plan which attempts to coordinate a patient's care to a single network of providers.

Related Practice Areas

  • Estate Planning: The practice area which creates wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents.
  • Elder Law: This practice area concerns all the legal aspects of aging, including estate planning and health care law.
  • Insurance Law: Insurance law attorneys help insurance companies determine how much to pay their clients and advocate for clients so that they receive all relevant benefits.
  • Medical Malpractice: The area of law which determines the standards doctors must follow when treating patients.

If you have a Medicare or Medicaid issue, or have a question regarding the services a doctor may provide, be sure to contact a qualified local attorney using the tools below.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney to make sure your rights and interests get protected.

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