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Wall Street Journal: Health Jobs Up, Again

Posted Mar 08 2010 12:00am

blog-med-stethoscope-2There may or may not be health care reform in the offing, but it seems fairly clear that the future still looks rather bright for health care related employment.

Despite a national unemployment rate holding steady for these last two months at 9.7%, in February, according to the Wall St. Journal “the health care sector added 12,000 jobs. That continues the series of monthly job gains that has made health care an economic bright spot since the start of the recession.”

And so it is. That series of monthly Health Care job gains amounts to 658,000 since the start of the recession in December, 2007. To put this in perspective, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy has shed 8.4 million jobs during that same time period.

And the impact for Health Law practitioners? I covered this ground last year after the Wall St. Journal had reported that

Health care saw a net gain of 419,000 jobs in 2008 and its growth outlook continues to be strong through 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But as we’ve exceeded that added job total now by more than 50%, and the bar exam was just again administered, it may be worth reiterating:

What might one expect to be the effect of this relatively sanguine state of affairs for Health Care employment on Health Law practitioners?

In the well written and informative words of Professor Jennifer Bard, J.D., M.P.H (I highly recommend the article,  “ I’m Interested in Health Law- Now Where Can I Get a Job? ” to anyone who may be considering a career in Health Law ),

Health care is a trillion-dollar industry [1] that has grown exponentially over the past 10 years with very little sign of slowing. The demand for legal services has tracked the growth of the industry, [2] and, as a result, attorneys calling themselves “health lawyers” have grown from a small core of specialists to a large and diverse group of individuals who are as likely to specialize in bond issuance and tax planning as in torts or food and drug law. Moreover, the increasing regulation of health care has created substantial need for lawyers specializing in compliance with a vast array of federal, state and local regulations. Where 15 years ago most health law was done by small, specialized law firms, today many of the nation’s biggest law firms have thriving health law practices.

Significantly, although officially published in the Winter of 2009 ( 14 New York State Bar Association Health Law Journal 73 (2009) ), Professor Bard first published those words to SSRN in February of 2008–prior to the onset of the Obama Administration and the rising priority of Health Care Reform and regulatory enforcement. Because of these rising priorities, her words are no less true than when they were written, and have arguably gained an even greater currency since.

In an article this month in The American Lawyer, “ Drug Supplement.  New federal regs demand more health care lawyers ,” Rachel Breitman points out the following:

Ever since President Barack Obama gave health care reform a prime spot on his agenda, hospital, pharmaceutical, medical device, and insurance interest groups have been digging in, with the expectation of a battle to come-the kind that requires lawyers.

Changes have already begun. New federal regulations like a genetic discrimination shield law and new digital privacy security standards have been enacted. The U.S. Department of Justice and Health and Human Services launched a healthcare task force in May. “There’s going to be more oversight about how companies spend government grant funds for research and clinical trials,” says Frederick Robinson, the head of Fullbright & Jaworski’s Washington, D.C., health law practice, which advises clients like Zimmer, Inc., and Walgreen Company. “Also, as health care providers apply for stimulus funds, there will be new compliance challenges to get the money.”

As a result, law firms have a new appetite for health care lawyers.

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