The US devotes over 17 percent of our GDP to health care, more than any other nation in the world. Social Security accounts for another 5 percent of GDP and there are currently $24 trillion in assets in tax-preferred retirement plans. Other means-tested benefit programs are key components of the safety net. Health and benefits law is big business, employing many lawyers in the private sector, government and nonprofits. The basic health law courses introduce students to the laws governing access to services, public and private financing of health care and insurance, regulation of quality, and transactions in the health enterprise, including tax, antitrust and antifraud. Other basic benefits courses examine the tax, labor, and other regulatory and policy aspects of employee benefit plans, or consider means-tested benefits for diverse groups of people, including housing benefits and tax credits for low-wage work.
Additional courses and seminars drill down on particular issues, including rights of people with disabilities and reproductive health law. They also offer opportunities to develop skills, such as writing academic papers to influence policymakers. Health and benefit lawyers work in diverse settings as counsel to employers, providers and insurers, regulators, policy advocates, lawyers on both sides of malpractice and labor/management disputes, and representatives of people seeking care. Students are advised on constructing individual curricula that meet their needs, but generally should plan on taking the basic courses in related fields, including taxation, administrative law, nonprofit law, and courses developing legal practice skills.