Paul Ryan holding a copy of the American Health Care Act

What Americans Will Really Dislike About 'Trumpcare'

May 8, 2017

An article in the Washington Post co-authored by University of Minnesota health policy professor Sarah Gollust analyzes the bill that passed the US House of Representatives last week. Gollust and her co-researchers conducted a national survey in March asking 1,588 Americans what they knew about the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) and the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA, also known as Trumpcare), whether their views of these programs were favorable or unfavorable, and how completely they understood each. The results? Among those surveyed, even those who were aware of the ACA requirement to purchase insurance or pay a penalty prefer the ACA to the AHCA. Of particular concern regarding the AHCA was its penalty for enrollment gaps, fines that would be paid to insurers. The authors conclude the enrollment gap could be used as an additional line of attack by anti-AHCA activists, noting "the public is already concerned about protections for people with preexisting conditions, huge cuts to the Medicaid program, and citizens losing insurance. Highlighting the AHCA’s coverage-gap penalty could drop public support further."


American flag with stethoscope

Video Available for Lecture on the Past, Present, and Future of the Affordable Care Act

March 27, 2017

Given the drama of the past several weeks, during which Congress wrestled with repealing, replacing or reforming the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it's an opportune time to look at the trajectory of that legislation. On March 23, the seventh anniversary of the ACA's signing, the former General Counsel for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), William B. Schultz, lectured at Harvard Law School in an event sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center. He described what he saw from his front-row seat during five years at HHS, during which time the repeal of ACA was the number one priority of the Republicans in Washington, and it was deeply unpopular across the nation. Mr. Schultz also considered what's likely to happen now that the Republicans have control of all branches of government and the repeal agenda is complicated by the new support for the law by voters and some Republican governors. He concluded with a discussion of health policy options for the future. A video of the lecture and discussion can be viewed here


Seal of University of Minnesota law school

Consortium Research Assistants Selected for Minnesota Law Review

February 13, 2017

Both of the legal project assistants (LPAs) currently working with Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf, JD, have received staff appointments for volume 102 of the Minnesota Law Review, an honor indicating high achievement in legal studies. Caroline Bressman was selected as Symposium Articles Editor, and Lauren Clatch is Lead Articles Editor. Ms. Bressman is a graduate of St. Olaf College who clerked at Nichols Kaster last summer. Ms. Clatch graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and interned for Chief Judge John R. Tunheim at the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis last summer. Both are assisting Prof. Wolf with research related to the LawSeq grant. Congratulations to these law students on this well-deserved honor! 


National Football League logo

The Ethics of Football: NFL Player Health Policies Examined

February 1, 2017

Just in time for next Sunday's Superbowl game, a new paper published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review explores the legal and ethical aspects of a hypothetical National Football League (NFL) player's health. The authors, who include Consortium collaborator I. Glenn Cohen of Harvard Law School, ask "What are the current legal standards for employers collecting and acting on an individual’s health- and performance-related information?" They draw upon disability law, privacy law and other disciplines to provide recommendations to better protect the health and privacy of professional football players. The authors find that "it appears that some of the existing evaluations of players, both at the NFL Scouting Combine (Combine) and once drafted and playing for a club, seem to violate existing federal employment discrimination laws." To correct this, they recommend both adherence to current laws and changes to existing statutory schemes. Read the entire article here


Pill bottle with one capsule left

Drugmakers Use Legislative Strategies to Weaken Opioid Regulation

September 21, 2016

A new, in-depth investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press details the methods by which pharmaceutical companies and their allies weaken and defeat restrictions on opioid access. According to the article, "Deaths linked to addictive drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet had increased more than fourfold since 1999, accounting for more fatal overdoses in 2012 than heroin and cocaine combined." Part one of the two-article series describes "a statehouse playbook of delay and defend that includes funding advocacy groups that use the veneer of independence to fight limits on the drugs," a strategy executed by "an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in legislative hubs from 2006 through 2015." Part two focuses on similar efforts at the federal level, outlining how drug lobbies "reinforced their influence with more than $140 million doled out to political campaigns. That combined spending on lobbying and campaigns amounts to more than 200 times the $4 million spent during the same period by the handful of groups that work for restrictions on painkillers. Meanwhile, opioid sales reached $9.6 billion last year." The spike in opioid deaths has led President Obama to declare Sept. 18-24 Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week and request $1.1 billion in new funding for treatment programs. 


Neural network

Creating an Ethical Framework for Artificial Intelligence

September 6, 2016

A new group in the high-tech industry is laying the groundwork for the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI). An article in the New York Times notes, "While science fiction has focused on the existential threat of A.I. to humans, researchers at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and those from Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft have been meeting to discuss more tangible issues, such as the impact of A.I. on jobs, transportation and even warfare." The group is trying to get ahead of government regulation, in hopes self-policing will minimize the need for formal legal or statutory measures. One of the tools they're using is a report out of Stanford University, One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence, which reassuringly states "Contrary to the more fantastic predictions for AI in the popular press, the Study Panel found no cause for concern that AI is an imminent threat to humankind." 


Law School Dean Garry Jenkins

New Dean Wants to Reclaim Leadership for Lawyers

August 22, 2016

In an interview in Minnesota Lawyer, the new dean of the University of Minnesota Law School, Garry Jenkins, acknowledges he needs to spend time listening and getting to know students, faculty, and administrators. Having only been in Minnesota for two weeks, a learning curve is inevitable. However, Jenkins brings a rich and diverse background to the job, having worked as an attorney with the New York law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, as chief operating officer and general counsel of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, and most recently, as associate dean for academic affairs at Ohio State University's law school. His breadth of experience will serve him well as he manages changes in legal education and launches new academic programs. Beyond those core areas, Dean Jenkins has another item on his agenda: teaching lawyers leadership skills. According to Jenkins, "We all have the capacity to be leaders and I would love to see the graduates of the state’s flagship law school be a critically important source of leadership in this country. . . . It’s a field that we have ceded to business schools and to me that never felt right." Read the entire interview here.


African American soldier in Vietnam -era uniform

The Hidden Social Costs of an Unequal Military

August 19, 2016

A new paper by Douglas L. Kriner of Boston University and Francis X. Shen, a Consortium affilate faculty member and professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, takes an empirical look at the results of socioeconomic disparities in military service. In "Invisible Inequality: The Two Americas of Military Sacrifice," the authors analyze large existing data sets, including 500,000 American combat casualties over the past 70 years, which reveal that "today, unlike in World War II, the Americans who die or are wounded in war are disproportionately coming from poorer parts of the country." The authors also conducted original surveys of public opinion "to uncover a variety of social, legal, and political consequences of this inequality" and why it is "routinely overlooked by scholars, policymakers, and the public." Read a PDF of the article here.


Law Dean Garry Jenkins

Law School Welcomes New Dean

August 1, 2016

Garry W. Jenkins has begun his tenure as Dean of the University of Minnesota School of Law, becoming the 11th person to hold that position. Dean Jenkins previously served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and John C. Elam/Vorys Sater Professor of Law at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law, where he was also director of the Program on Law and Leadership, an initiative that he co-founded. Prior to entering academia, Dean Jenkins was chief operating officer and general counsel of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, a $200 million-plus international corporate foundation. He earned his JD from Harvard University, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and went on to clerk for Judge Timothy Lewis on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Dean Jenkins also earned an MPP from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and his BA from Haverford College. He replaces David Wippman, the previous dean, who left the Law School to assume the presidency of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. 


Logo for the Americans with Disabilities Act

Disability and End-of-life Medical Options

July 26, 2016

In an editorial in today's MinnPost, Bobbi Jacobsen, who has lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for 20 years, commemorates the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act 26 years ago today by calling upon "the leaders of major disability organizations. . . to recognize that we want to be empowered in our end-of-life medical options, too." The article was written to raise awareness and support for Minnesota's Compassionate Care Act, which is modeled on an Oregon law that permits aid in dying but not assisted suicide. Jacobsen notes that the former only applies to terminally ill people: "Medical aid in dying applies to people who want more than anything to live, but a deadly disease is ending their lives." The bill was introduced in the Minnesota state legislature during the last session and was heard by the Senate Health Committee. It was withdrawn before a vote was taken, but is expected to be introduced again during the next session, which begins in January, 2017. 


Cesar DeLeon

Force Feeding of Inmate Can Go Forward, Judge Rules

July 15, 2016

A request by Cesar DeLeon to discontinue force feeding has been denied by Circuit Court Judge Steven Bauer. DeLeon is one of several Wisconsin prisoners who began a hunger strike in early June to protest long-term solitary confinement, which in the case of one of the strikers has lasted more than 25 years. In his suit, DeLeon cited free-speech and religious grounds and accused a prison guard of withholding water during the force feeding procedure, which is necessary to avoid food and liquids being aspirated. Prof. Steven Miles, MD, of Consortium member the Center for Bioethics was interviewed for an article by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Miles notes that "force feeding of prisoners is condemned by most major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The World Medical Association has declared that 'the forced feeding of hunger strikers is unethical and is never justified,' calling the practice 'inhuman and degrading.'” Miles asserts that "prisoners’ refusal to eat should not be viewed in medical terms alone, saying 'A hunger strike is fundamentally a form of political expression by persons or groups which have exhausted other forms of political expression.'" 


Obamacare logo

Obama Lays Out Next Steps for the Affordable Care Act in JAMA

July 12, 2016

In an article that "is apparently the first by a sitting president to be published by the [Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)]" according to NPR, Barack Obama, JD, reviews the effects the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had since it was passed in 2010. He notes, "Since the Affordable Care Act became law, the uninsured rate has declined by 43%, from 16.0% in 2010 to 9.1% in 2015, primarily because of the law’s reforms." The article goes on to describe remaining "major opportunities to improve the health care system," including offering a government-run insurance plan, the so-called public option, as part of the ACA. While Obama advocates for Congress to revisit the idea of "a public plan to compete alongside private insurers in areas of the country where competition is limited," the public option has been controversial thus far and was dropped from the health law prior to its passage because of fears it represented a step toward fully government-run system.


Nighttime Scene of Dallas Police Shooting

Use of Robot to Kill Dallas Shooter Raises Legal, Ethical Questions

July 11, 2016

Last week, a robot was used to kill the attacker who fatally shot five police officers and injured seven others during a peaceful protest rally in Dallas. After a multi-hour standoff, Dallas police jury-rigged a robot originally designed to disarm bombs by attaching an explosive device and remotely detonating it near the gunman. This is the first known incident of a robot being used to kill a suspect in the history of American policing. An article on Motherboard analyzes the relevant legal and ethical principles; according to tech attorney Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union, “Because ground robots may allow deadly force to be applied more safely and easily, they raise the danger that they will be overused. . . . Remote uses of force raise policy issues that should be carefully considered and addressed by our society as technology advances." Ian Kerr of the University of Ottawa raises another important point: "Once you send a robot in, compared to a human, you’re no longer thinking about it as a human process of negotiation. A human can think — is this guy going to lay down arms or not? [A robot can only be used] once they’ve decided the situation is far past the point of negotiation.” Read the entire article here


LawSeq logo stacked

LawSeq to Clarify Consent, Standards, Liability in Genomic Medicine

July 6, 2016

An article in GenomeWeb provides a comprehensive overview of the LawSeqSM project, a 3-year, $2 million grant recently awarded to Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf, JD, and two co-PIs, Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD (Vanderbilt) and Frances Lawrenz, PhD (University of Minnesota). The methodology will be a "combined approach involving empirical work, analytic research, and negotiation to reach consensus" within the national working group; the effort will also be informed by prior research in the field of genomic medicine by both Wolf and Clayton. The resulting guidelines will inform case law, fill gaps in current regulations and shape those developed in the future. Another important outcome will be "a public-facing website that simply describes in detail the current state of the law in relation to genomics and genome sequencing." 


Seal of University of Minnesota law school

Consortium Research Assistants Selected for Minnesota Law Review

July 1, 2016

All three of the legal project assistants (LPAs) currently working with Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf, JD, have received staff appointments for volume 101 of the Minnesota Law Review, an honor indicating high achievement in legal studies. Caroline Bressman and Lauren Clatch are assisting Prof. Wolf with research related to the newly-awarded LawSeq grant, while Stephen Maier is helping develop a grant proposal for the National Institutes of Health. Ms. Bressman is a graduate of St. Olaf College who is also clerking at Nichols Kaster this summer. Ms. Clatch graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and, in addition to her LPA work, is interning for Chief Judge John R. Tunheim at the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis this summer. Mr. Maier graduated from Boise State University, is a law clerk for Dennis J. Holisak, and serves as secretary of the University of Minnesota's Health Law and Bioethics Association. Congratulations to these law students on this well-deserved honor! 


LawSeq logo corrected Dec 2016

LawSeq: Building a Sound Legal Foundation for Translating Genomics into Clinical Application

This innovative 3-year project, based cooperatively at the University of Minnesota and Vanderbilt University, has convened a national Working Group of top legal and scientific experts to analyze current federal and state law and regulation on translational genomics and to generate consensus guidance on what the law should be. The project team will build a searchable online database of relevant law and an annotated bibliography for free public access, systematically collect and analyze a range of stakeholder inputs, convene a national public conference, and publish analyses and recommendations to help shape the law to support genomic medicine.


LawSeq logo stacked

Consortium Awarded $2M NIH Grant to Co-lead Genomic Law Recommendations

June 7, 2016

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has just awarded the first-ever grant dedicated to laying the policy groundwork needed to translate genomic medicine into clinical application. The project – LawSeqSM– will convene legal, ethics and scientific experts from across the country to analyze what the state of genomic law is and create much-needed guidance on what it should be. The principal investigators leading the grant are Consortium Chair Susan M. Wolf, JD; Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD (Vanderbilt University); and Frances Lawrenz, PhD (University of Minnesota). They will be joined by a group of 22 top experts – from academia, industry, and clinical care – who will collaborate over the course of this 3-year project to clarify current law, address gaps, and generate the forward-looking recommendations needed to create the legal foundation for successfully translating genomics into clinical care. Learn more about the project here


Lakes seen from the air

The Supreme Court Opinion that Rewrote US Water Policy

May 26, 2016

A 2006 opinion by US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is still reverberating throughout environment regulation circles, having triggered a decade of fevered debate over how to determine which bodies of water are protected by the Clean Water Act of 1972. By positing that a waterway had to be part of a "significant nexus" with a river or wetland to be covered under the act, Kennedy's decision sparked dozens of lawsuits. Ultimately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corp of Engineers were charged with mapping flows of pollutants through waterways. The resulting 408-page report outlines a "legal shield" that the Obama administration hopes will protect what they've dubbed the Clean Water Rule from incursions by farm groups, developers and others. A discusson of legal and regulatory actions taken since the 2006 decision, as well as an overview of its expected future, can be found in a Politico article here.