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California Western professor offers insight into future of health insurance reform

The intersection between health law and public policy is often filled with political landmines and complex language that can be viewed as contradictory at best.

California Western professor Susan Channick understands the nuances of health care-related language and the implications of insurance-based legislation.

Professor Channick is actively involved in the national health care reform discussion. She has served on the American Bar Association subcommittees on Medicine and Law and Health Care Decisions and is a member of the American Society of Law, Medicine, and Ethics.

In addition to a juris doctor from California Western, she holds a bachelors degree in psychology from Cornell University, and a masters in public health from Harvard University.

For the past 15 years, Channick has focused on the legal issues surrounding health care, and during that time she has advocated for major changes to our country’s current system.

Professor Channick, who co-directs the UC San Diego and California Western Masters in Health Law program, finds herself in demand to explain the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare.” She believes the act’s intent needs clarification among the general public.

“The argument about the act is really about health insurance reform, not health care reform, with the act focusing on providing universal, affordable, and adequate health insurance,” she said.

The act’s focus of providing affordable health insurance is rooted in an expansion of the pool of those insured.

“The problem with voluntary health insurance is that health insurance pools tend to be oversaturated with older and sicker people who want to make sure they are insured for illness and injury,” said Channick. “The young and healthy view themselves as not needing health care, or that they cannot afford it.”

“Only a small percentage of the population actually needs health care so the risks are highly skewed and the costs are artificially high. A higher percentage of healthy people in the pool would lower the risk of bad health for everybody and therefore lower the costs.”

The inclusion of most Americans in a health care pool could therefore, in theory, reduce the per-person costs associated with health care.

Channick explained that the primary objection cited by those opposed to health reform is that the act forces people to purchase insurance if they don’t need or want it. But, the act is not being challenged on an individual liberty basis.

The states challenging the act in federal court cite their perceptions of Congress’s improper use of the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which regulates interstate and intrastate activity. Objecting members of Congress are attempting to repeal the act or “fiscally starve” elements of the act, like premium subsidies for low income Americans.

Despite the national conversation about possible repeal of the act, Channick believes the states’ challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Based on the Court’s decision and Congress’s actions, there is potential for the country to return to a voluntary health insurance market. This means the younger and healthier among us will continue to opt out of insurance pools and those insured will include sicker people, thus causing insurance rates to continue to rise. Individuals and small businesses, who are currently uninsured but who want insurance, will be left to the financial vagaries of the market.

While mandatory health insurance is predicted to lower the number of uninsured from 50 to 22 million, a continuation of or return to voluntary health insurance could cause some 40 million Americans to continue to be uninsured,” said Channick.

California Western’s Institute of Health Law Studies focuses on improving the future of health care.

Together with UC San Diego, the law school offers a joint Masters in Health Law and sponsors lectures and symposia focused on emerging health care issues.

-Submitted by California Western School of Law.

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