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December 01, 2017 Chair's Column

Politics, Policy, Sausage and Cigars

Hilary H. Young, Joy & Young, L.L.P., Austin, TX

We are approaching the end of the first year of the Trump administration. Politics, including political debates and efforts involving healthcare, have been a major ongoing focus of news coverage on all sides. Personally, I have never read as much news as I have this past year. Politics in Washington are particularly messy and controversial. As Otto von Bismarck is credited with saying, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” But at their essence, what are politics, really?

The word evolves from the Greek words polis, meaning “city,” and politika, “affairs of the cities.” Aristotle used the word as the title of his book Politics, published in the 4th century BCE. Merriam-Webster defines the modern English word as “the art or science of government” or “the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy.” The Merriam-Webster definition of “policy” is “prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs,” or “management or procedure based primarily on material interest.” At the end of the day, politics and setting policy are about managing a community and establishing rules for operating within the community or between communities.

The ABA Health Law Section is uniquely positioned to help advance American healthcare policy in a positive and nonpartisan way. We have a diverse membership and respect the different viewpoints of our members. Our Health Care Reform Task Force includes people from all points on the political spectrum, yet they work together to analyze developments in health reform and provide information about them. Our Health Law & Policy Coordinating Committee, led by Linda Malek and Amy Fehn, works with the Health Care Reform Task Force and with Interest Groups to develop official ABA policy through Resolutions that are presented for adoption by the ABA House of Delegates. The ABA Governmental Affairs Office advances adopted ABA policy. ABA Legislative Counsel David Eppstein works with Health Law Section leaders to provide information and education to legislators, and to lobby for official ABA policy where appropriate.

By the time you read this column, we will have concluded the 15th Annual Washington Health Law Summit in Washington, DC. This conference has a strong policy slant and draws many public and private lawyers, as both speakers and attendees. Joe Geraci and Juliet McBride led a terrific planning committee (Heather Baroni, Erin Fox, John Kelly, Cybil Roehrenbeck, Don Romano, and Gina Simms) in putting together a dynamite program. Highlights included a keynote speech on the state of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; a discussion of the future of Medicare, Medicaid and healthcare reform with former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) leaders that included former CMS administrator Mark McClellan; breakfast with attorneys from the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and a lunchtime conversation with POLITICO healthcare reporters David Pittman and Paul Demko. If you missed the Summit this year, mark December 9-10, 2018 on your calendar for next year.

Meanwhile, the Health Care Reform Task Force and Health Law & Policy Coordinating Committee continue their work. Section members with a policy issue or an interest in working on the development of a Resolution should contact the Chair of their Interest Group or the Chairs of the Health Law & Policy Coordinating Committee. We can make a difference by providing well analyzed information to legislators and their staffers as they grapple with making the sausage that will drive our healthcare system.

We are also broadening our healthcare policy perspective through the Health Law Section Delegation to Cuba, March 26-31, 2018. Former Section Chair David Johnson is leading the Delegation. We plan to spend five days in the Havana area visiting healthcare facilities and meeting Cuban healthcare professionals, administrators, and lawyers. Topics to be covered include the Cuban healthcare system; patient rights and access to care; current issues; the Cuban legal system; and the role of the legal system in the provision of healthcare. We will also enjoy a number of Cuban cultural activities. The trip is being organized by Academic Travel Abroad, a company experienced in arranging trips to Cuba in compliance with the current travel restrictions. Although a limited number of spots were available, and Academic Travel Abroad was asking for interested travelers to enroll by December 15, 2017, if you are interested in this opportunity, please follow the link here for more information.

So, as we head into the holidays and the close of 2017, I am grateful for our opportunities to contribute to American healthcare policy through the Section’s work, and for all that our volunteers and staff do to improve our profession and advance the rule of law. Have a joyful and restorative holiday season!

Hilary H. Young

Joy & Young, L.L.P