Practically every candidate in the 2020 presidential election has spoken about it. No, not the president’s latest tweet or even impeachment, but rather health care — or, more specifically, health care reform.
More than just a hot-button political topic, health care is a vital issue that affects all U.S. citizens, most of whom fail to grasp its complexities. The Health Law Program — a UNLV partnership between the William S. Boyd School of Law and the School of Public Health — is out to change that by engaging the community through a series of conferences and guest lectures with the foremost authorities in the field.
“We want to approach these important issues as experts, rather than as advocates,” says Dr. David Orentlicher, a Boyd professor, medical doctor, and the director of the Health Law Program. “Our goal is not to promote one view or another, so much as to make sure that people who attend can become informed and reach a better understanding of the issues. So whether it’s policymakers or the public, they can be in a better position to reach their own conclusions.”
Boyd will host the “Health Care Reform and the 2020 Election” conference on March 12. The conference will welcome speakers who will address several important health policy issues, including how to expand coverage to those who haven’t been reached by the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, experts will examine different proposals and rate them based on how likely they are to succeed in increasing access to health care. Other areas of focus will be the underinsured, who may have coverage but are still unable to afford care, as well as potential safety nets for uninsured individuals who may need to access emergency rooms when they fall ill.
“Health care reform is a leading concern, and we’re seeing the candidates focus on what are the next steps,” says Orentlicher, who co-directs the program with adjunct professor Max Gakh. “Because voters are going to make [health care] a high priority, we want to make sure we inform them as best we can. Once again, we don’t advocate any position; we’re advocates for best practices. We’re basing policy on the data — not having a particular ideology to promote.”
In the past two years, the Health Law Program has hosted conferences on two other critical health issues: the opioid crisis and cost containment.
The program not only enlightens Boyd students in the classroom but also provides a consistent, nonpartisan resource for the community. Orentlicher has partnered with such institutions as the Southern Nevada Health District in the effort.
“When we’re trying to choose which speakers to bring in or which conference topic to pick, we think about the issues that are important for the public,” Orentlicher says. “Opioids and health care costs were two big ones.
“That’s why you can’t become bored practicing [health law], because there’s always an important and interesting new challenge. Plus, there’s just so much at stake because people’s lives are often on the line. If it’s not their life, it’s their health — so getting it right really matters.