ABA Health eSource
March 2009 Volume 5 Number 7

Chair's Column
by Vickie Yates Brown, Frost Brown Todd LLC, Louisville, KY

Vickie Yates BrownThe Health Law Section held its 10th anniversary Emerging Issues Conference (EMI) recently at the Disney Yacht Club Resort in Lake Buena Vista , Florida. EMI was an overwhelming success. It is important to recognize and thank the Health Law Section staff and planning committee for a job well done. Their hard work, dedication, and attention to detail made this event an enjoyable, productive experience for all.

As is the tradition, the current chair of the Section delivers a State of the Section address at the conference. The address began by recognizing the attendees who have attended all 10 of the EMI conferences. In addition, present and past Council members were recognized as well as the Section’s very capable staff and the winner of the law student writing competition, Lauren Nuffort. My State of the Section comments are set out below.

The Health Law Section is a fairly young Section in the ABA; it is about 12 years old. Time has passed quickly, but close friendships have been established among those active in the Section. We have seen the markers indicated by the passage of time – we’ve celebrated births, seen children growing into adulthood and have even experienced the unexpected death of a dear friend and former Chair of this Section.

The Council hopes you take pride in your membership in the Section and its accomplishments. The Health Law Section is a special group. Remember – this is your Section!

I would now like to bring you up to date on its accomplishments, challenges and direction for the future.

INVOLVEMENT IN ESTABLISHING PUBLIC POLICY: I want to first address the issue of influencing Public Policy. This is one of the Section’s foremost evolving accomplishments – its credibility to affect health care policy. This did not just happen overnight. This is something that has been gradual, systematic and a reflection of the respect the Section has built over the past 12 years. This credibility is due to a number of factors, including the important work of the Interest Groups, such as preparing government submissions, planning and hosting informative, practical and timely teleconferences and writing and publishing on cutting edge issues.

The Council has also established task forces to study and advise on certain discreet issues. These task forces are established for specific purposes and for finite periods of time. One of these is the Section’s Access Task Force charged to study the issue of health care reform. This task force will interface with government and will work to influence ABA policy on the issue. The task force is also preparing a report and recommendation on anticipated elements of health care reform for submission at the ABA annual meeting. This task force is working with and servings as a resource to the ABA’s Access task force.

This Section has also established a sort of think tank group known as the section’s Health Care Policy Task Force to identify, study and advise the Council on certain cutting-edge issues. This task force is currently working on topics in telemedicine and is preparing proposed policy for the ABA on issues surrounding “Direct to Consumer Genetic Testing” and Physician/Pharma Issues. The Council anticipates that this task force will have reports and recommendations on these issues ready for debate at the annual ABA meeting in August.

These task force leaders, along with others in the Section, recently met in Washington, D.C. for a government submissions meeting to coordinate our efforts and establish a plan. I think you will see the Section becoming even more active in responding to what government does. The Interest Groups will be an integral part of this effort. We anticipate that efforts on health care reform will intensify soon now that the Stimulus Bill has been signed. The Section will continue to monitor and become more involved at appropriate points during this debate.

INTEREST GROUPS: The Council will continue to examine whether the Interest Groups should be reorganized, such as forming subcommittees within some of them, updating their names and purposes, and establishing new ones. The Interest Groups are so important to the success of the Section it is essential they remain relevant. Your involvement in the work of the Interest Groups is important and your thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

MEMBERSHIP: We track membership of all types of member classifications, including health care attorneys, associate members, and law students. Membership appears to be stabilizing and in fact membership of health care attorneys and law students is trending up.

PROGRAMMING: The Section has held two live programs since August – Washington Healthcare Summit and EMI. Both programs have been successful. Washington Healthcare Summit has become a solid conference as an opportunity to visit contacts on the Hill who are working on issues important to Health Lawyers. The Washington Healthcare Summit has proven to be an effective venue for the section to establish credibility in the area of Health Care Policy – making the summit popular with government attorneys who attend and speak at the conference.

The success of our live programs allows us to make the teleconferences available to you at affordable rates. The Teleconference Fundamentals Series has been extremely well received. The Council will be considering additional program options such as providing programming through videos, iPods or other special conferencing capabilities.

PUBLICATIONS: Publications are going well. The Section just published its newest book on patient safety organizations. The Section is also considering increasing its publications by publishing white papers on particular issues. We are very proud of The Health Lawyer and it continues to be one of the best scholarly resources on timely issues for practicing health attorneys. We also appreciate the Interest Group monthly contributions to the eSource, the Section’s monthly electronic newsletter.

PUBLIC SERVICE: Our Section continues to place importance on public service. The Section continues its efforts to train attorneys to represent breast cancer patients through its breast cancer initiative and it also continues to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the Expedited Partners Initiative. This program is getting a lot of positive feedback and as a result many states are now inquiring about how to set up such programs. This initative was discussed in more detail during one of the presentations at EMI.

FINANCES: We have challenges in these tough economic times, but Council is committed to maintaining member services in spite of the downturn in the economy. The Council finance committee will continue to monitor this closely.

Remember: This is your Section. Attending EMI is a great opportunity to identify ways to get involved in the Section. EMI is essentially our Section membership’s annual meeting and educational program. Section leadership is here and accessible, including the Council and Interest Group leaders. I want to encourage each of you to get involved with your Section. There is a lot to do and the Council needs your help.

I also want you to know that it has been a privilege for me to serve as your Section Chair. I began my remarks by noting the success of the Section and that one of the benefits of Section involvement has been the friendships which have established through the years. The Section offers this “Recipe for Success”:

Recipe for Section’s Success
2 C. knowledge2 C. willingness to share and become involved
1 C. fun½ C. Courtesy
¼ C. friendly wordsA pinch of praise

No baking, steaming, or stewing needed. Season with the spice of life. Serve in generous portions topped with kindness and respect.

I think that sums up our Section’s Recipe for Success and is the reason the State of the Section is positive, even during these difficult economic times.

The ABA Health eSource is distributed automatically to members of the ABA Health Law Section . Please feel free to forward it! Non-members may also sign up to receive the ABA Health eSource.