October 2013 Volume 10 Number 2

Section Chair's Column: Now More Than Ever

By Kathleen Scully-Hayes, Social Security Administration, Baldwin, MD

AuthorPersonally, October is one of my favorite months, and I look forward to its arrival. The weather in Baltimore is almost always pleasant. The heat and humidity from the mid-Atlantic summer is gone, and you can finally turn off the air conditioner and open the windows. The leaves start changing, the mums are blooming, there is a wonderful crispness in the air, and the Baltimore Ravens are back on the football field! As a career federal employee, however, professionally it is my least favorite month. I usually dread the month of October – rarely is there a federal budget in place, and there is often the looming threat of a possible lapse in appropriations. What that means to your average federal worker is that there is no money for training, travel or supplies – annoyances to be sure, but all part of what you come to expect working for the federal government in October, and generally short-lived. Sooner or later at the very least a Continuing Resolution is passed to keep the government open and operating, and life goes on. Not this year. The month of October brought, as Washington Post Columnist Joe Davidson aptly described in his October 21, 2013 Federal Diary column “16 days of a partial, yet painful, pointless and partisan government shutdown,” the likes of which we have not experienced in the last 17 years. Front and center in the failed negotiations to keep the government open and functioning was the acrimonious national debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”). As we all know, even though the government has finally reopened for business, nothing was actually resolved. I am not alone when I make the gloomy prediction that January 15th may well find us on the brink of shutdown yet again.

No matter what your personal political viewpoint, as heath lawyers, we find ourselves in the middle of the debate as we are called upon to advise both clients and family members on how to respond to the changes and challenges the new law has brought and will continue to bring for the healthcare community and the public. Now more than ever, healthcare attorneys need information on a myriad of topics including health insurance exchanges, wellness programs, reporting and certification requirements, and the expansion of Medicaid, to name a few. As you maneuver through this new territory, I encourage you to turn to the Health Law Section for answers – or maybe just to help formulate your questions! A variety of resources are available, including the upcoming Washington Health Law Summit (December 9-10, 2013). Co-Chairs Michelle Apodaca and Andrew Gantt with the Program Planning Committee have put together what promises to be an excellent program, with several sessions devoted to PPACA issues. As in the past, this conference, co-sponsored by the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division, will bring key government officials and policymakers together to discuss the future of healthcare. Be sure to sign up for this important conference!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, so it is appropriate that I highlight the wonderful work of the Health Law Section’s Breast Cancer Task Force, the Section’s premier pro bono effort. Chaired this year by Jennifer Rangel, the Breast Cancer Advocacy Initiative educates women, attorneys and policymakers on a wide range of legal issues associated with breast cancer, and provides legal advocacy training to lawyers as well as resources for lawyers and consumers dealing with breast cancer. The Task Force has developed specific guidance on legal rights, including Ten Steps to Protecting the Legal Rights of Breast Cancer Patients and Getting or Keeping Health Insurance After Diagnosis, which offer valuable information to persons struggling with breast cancer and are available on the Health Law Section’s website. Also available on the website is the Breast Cancer Legal Advocacy Guide, which covers topics including Breast Cancer 101, Financing and Delivering Health Care, and Family Law Issues. The purpose of the Guide is to assist with issues related to coverage for treatment, employment problems and debt relief. The Task Force also maintains an online library of attorney breast cancer survivor stories, which is an inspiring collection of personal experiences. If you or someone you know would like to contribute to this library of stories, please contact Jennifer Rangel at jlrang@lockelord.com.

Additionally, the Breast Cancer Task Force has partnered with the Cancer Legal Resource Center (“CLRC”), a national joint program of the Disability Rights Legal Center and Loyola Law School Los Angeles, to further their shared breast cancer legal advocacy goals and to identify pro bono legal referral services.

The ABA Health Law Section assumed responsibility for the Task Force in 2008 from the ABA Commission on Women, and since that time has sponsored several Breast Cancer Advocacy Workshops around the country, many in conjunction with other Health Law Section programs. More than 1,000 people have attended the Workshops to date. The most recent Workshop co-sponsored by the Breast Cancer Task Force was somewhat broader in scope. Held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 11, 2013, the Third Annual Advocacy for Cancer Patients Seminar focused on equal access to cancer care, patient navigation and legal rights.

The next Breast Cancer Advocacy Workshop with be held on February 26, 2014 at the Health Law Section’s annual Emerging Issues In Healthcare Law Conference in Arizona. If you have the time to attend one of these workshops, I encourage you to do so. The information and resources provided are invaluable for healthcare law practitioners. Coming in January 2014, the Task Force will sponsor an ABA-wide free CLE webinar on Breast Cancer Advocacy. The webinar will offer an overview of the Breast Cancer Advocacy Initiatives, bringing awareness to a greater audience, and highlighting the resources available through the Health Law Section. Membership in the Breast Cancer Task Force is free to all ABA members. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Health Law Section Program Specialist, Naomi Shicly at naomi.shicly@americanbar.org.

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