U.Va. Tip Sheet: Professors Who Can Comment on Health Care Reform

November 14, 2011 — The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear a challenge to the health care reform law. U.Va. experts who can comment on this issue are:

Richard Bonnie

Bonnie is one of the country's foremost experts on health law policy and has written or commented extensively on health care reform in the media. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and chairs Virginia's Commission on Mental Health Law Reform, which has spearheaded major reforms in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting. Among many other positions, he has been associate director of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (1971-73); secretary of the first National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (1975-80); chair of Virginia's State Human Rights Committee responsible for protecting rights of persons with mental disabilities (1979-85); and chief adviser for the ABA Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards Project (1981-88).

"Most constitutional experts do not expect [a potential Supreme Court ruling] to be a close case," Bonnie wrote in a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed. "Congress has the power to regulate individual decisions whether or not to carry health insurance because these decisions, when aggregated, have a significant economic effect on the interstate insurance market and failing to include them would make it less likely that Congress' legitimate regulatory goals will be achieved. Moreover, requiring an individual to buy insurance does not violate any individual right protected by the Constitution."

Thomas Hafemeister

Hafemeister is an associate professor at the School of Law and an associate professor of medical education in the School of Medicine. He teaches courses in medical malpractice and health care quality, bioethics and the law, mental health law, and psychiatry and criminal law, and has published articles on health, public health and mental health care policy, as well as range of other issues, including elder abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, underage drinking, the psychology of jury selection and juror stress, and the criminal justice system. He has written extensively about alternative approaches to medical malpractice in cases of medical error and the effects of pharmaceutical and medical product advertising and marketing on doctor-patient relationships.

Hafemeister recently wrote in the Southern Methodist University Law Review:
"Currently, there are a series of legal challenges to the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] winding their way through the courts, driven primarily by elected Republican officials from various states, claiming, among other things, that the enactment of the PPACA by the Democratic majority exceeded the constitutional authority of the federal government. Ironically, the positions of the two political parties on this constitutional authority could be diametrically reversed should the Republicans ultimately regain power in both houses and succeed in passing a federal medical malpractice reform package, with Democratic officials then asserting that such an enactment exceeds the constitutional power of Congress."

Margaret Foster Riley

Riley teaches health law at the School of Law and in the Department of Public Health Sciences at U.Va.'s School of Medicine. She teaches a seminar that focuses on the health care reform debate and has written and presented extensively about biomedical research, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cell research, animal biotechnology, health disparities and chronic disease. She serves as chair of U.Va.'s Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee and as legal adviser to the Health Sciences Institutional Review Board, which is responsible for reviewing all human-subject research at U.Va. involving medically invasive procedures.

"The Supreme Court's ruling on the individual mandate case may have implications for the federal government's power under the commerce clause that go far beyond health reform," Riley said. "My hunch is that the court will be very sensitive to that fact. But even if the court were to rule that the individual mandate were unconstitutional, I don't believe that it would make the Affordable Care Act legally unsustainable. The individual mandate is designed to address the problem of adverse selection – the fact that purchasers of insurance would be skewed toward people with health problems who are more expensive to insure. Although there are alternative solutions to that problem, they may be much less fair and have drastic financial implications for unlucky individuals. In any event, the political implications of a Supreme Court ruling – in either direction – may, at least in the short run, dwarf the legal implications."

Frederick Schauer

Schauer is one of the nation's leading experts in constitutional law and theory. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has held a Guggenheim Fellowship, has been vice president of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy and chair of the Committee on Philosophy and Law of the American Philosophical Association, and was a founding co-editor of the journal Legal Theory. Schauer is a David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law at U.Va. Previously he served for 18 years as Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, where he has served as academic dean and acting dean, and before that was a professor of law at the University of Michigan.

"Twenty years ago, I would have said that the commerce clause challenge was either preposterous or frivolous," he told IFAwebnews.com. "Now, I think it is a very, very, very long shot.

"To say this [health reform] bill and the entire health care industry doesn't have significant interstate economic effect is a much, much, much more tenuous argument," Schauer said. "So with that, I would predict, with pretty strong odds, that the case is a loser."

Dr. Arthur Garson Jr.
University Professor and director of the Center for Health Policy

Garson is a nationally recognized authority on health policy and reform. He has served on the White House panel on Health Policy and on several national task forces on improving the health care system. 

Garson helped originate and draft the "Health Partnership Act" (S. 325 and H.R. 5606), which funds grants to states for innovations to improve coverage for the uninsured, quality and efficiency. He teaches the introductory health policy course, "Myths and Realities of American Health Care." His book, "Health Care Half Truths: Too Many Myths, Not Enough Reality," was published in April 2007.

He and co-authors Carolyn L. Engelhard of U.Va. and Stan Dorn of the Urban Institute published a provocative paper, "Reducing Obesity: Strategies from the Tobacco Wars," which considers whether taxing unhealthy foods would curb their consumption,

Carolyn Engelhard
Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences
Co-author of "Health Care Half Truths: Too Many Myths, Not Enough Reality"
434-982-6744 (office), 434-962-1603 (mobile)

Engelhard, co-author of a major book on the challenges and politics of health care reform (see above), excels at breaking down the complex issues involved.

Eric Patashnik
Professor of politics and public policy and associate dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
434-924-0903 or 3192,

As the Supreme Court was announcing it would consider the challenge to health-care reform, Patashnik was taking part in a panel at U.Va. on "Making Health Care Reform Work: Implementation Progress & Political Changes." He can discuss the politics of health reform. A Q&A on the topic with him is online here

Lois Shepherd
Professor of law and associate professor of biomedical ethics
Author of "If That Ever Happens to Me: Making Life and Death Decisions After Terri Schiavo"
Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities
Office Phone: 434-982-3970, Mobile Phone: 434-249-4489

Talk of death panels has been a rhetorical trope for those against Obama's health care reform, but the questions of when to "pull the plug on grandma" are tough decisions for millions of families, she says.

Dr. Robert Powers
Professor of Medicine and Emergency Medicine                 
A medical professor and emergency room physician, Dr. Powers has taught a January-term course on "The American Health Care System."

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