Nicole Huberfeld Named Edward R. Utley Professor of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights
The health and constitutional law expert succeeds Wendy Mariner and George Annas, who held the professorship for 11 years and 17 years, respectively.
Nicole Huberfeld has been named the Edward R. Utley Professor of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights.
The distinguished professorship at the School of Public Health was established to memorialize the work of Edward R. Utley in the field of legal medicine, now known as health law.
Huberfeld succeeds Wendy Mariner, who held the professorship from 2009 until she became professor emeritus of health law, ethics & human rights in January after 34 years of teaching at SPH, the School of Medicine, and the School of Law. George Annas, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights and director of the Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights (CLER), was the inaugural recipient of the Utley Professorship, which he held from 1982 until he assumed his current title in 2009.
“I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of health law giants George Annas and Wendy Mariner,” says Huberfeld, who joined SPH in 2017 as a professor in the Department of Health Law, Policy & Management and CLER, and she is also a professor in the School of Law. “This is a true honor.”
Huberfeld’s research interests focus on health law and constitutional law, with an emphasis on health reform, Medicaid, federalism in healthcare, and the federal spending power. Her work has been referenced by numerous courts, including state and federal district courts, and her article “Federalizing Medicaid” was cited by the US Supreme Court in the first Affordable Care Act (ACA) court case, NFIB v. Sebelius. Huberfeld is the coauthor of the third edition of Public Health Law (with Mariner, Annas, and Michael Ulrich, assistant professor of health law, ethics & human rights), and she also coauthored The Law of American Health Care, the first new casebook on healthcare law in a generation.
Much of Huberfeld’s current work revolves around health reform and legal topics that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. She has penned several book chapters in upcoming publications on legal lessons learned from the pandemic and its impact on healthcare disparities, and has written recent and forthcoming articles and commentaries on Medicaid waivers, Medicare for All, and healthcare in the Biden administration’s first 100 days.
Huberfeld is Affiliate Faculty with BU’s Center for Antiracist Research and.an affiliated faculty member of the new BU Medicaid Policy Lab. She is currently helping policymakers think through ways to close the Medicaid coverage gap in states that have refused to expand eligibility under the ACA.
“Now that the Supreme Court has refused to strike the law down for a third time, states must move forward, and the Biden administration can work in earnest toward this goal,” says Huberfeld. “The U.S. is long past the point where universal insurance coverage should even be a point of debate. Universal coverage will help to strengthen individual and population health and make for a more resilient population overall—a consideration that is especially important as we try to discern the lessons of the novel coronavirus pandemic.”
Annas says Huberfeld is “an international superstar in the field of health law, and the leading expert of her generation in theories of federalism and its implications for healthcare financing and access to care—all of which makes her perfectly suited to carry on the strong and deep tradition of the Utley Professor in the health law field.” As Medicaid expanded during the pandemic to cover more than 80 million Americans, he says Huberfeld’s expertise “has become crucial in making sure the program not only provides critical healthcare coverage, but does so in a fair and equitable manner.”
Mariner, Annas says, is respected worldwide for her expertise in health law and human rights.
“Professor Mariner has chaired national bodies, including, most recently, as Chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice,” says Annas. “She has produced a wide range of health law scholarship in areas including vaccination regulation, ERISA, insurance as a mechanism of financing medical care, personal responsibility for health, privacy, and the relationship of health and human rights.”
Mariner says her tenure at SPH was spent teaching with “the best health law and ethics faculty in the country.” While at SPH, she co-authored all three editions of Public Health Law, and has published more than 100 articles on patients and consumers’ rights, health reform, health insurance, the ACA, reproductive rights, and more.
Now, in her post-SPH days, Mariner remains active and committed to sharing her knowledge of the US legal system and the impact of laws on issues concerning fair elections, healthcare access, health equity, and social justice. As voting restrictions continue to play out in Congress and state legislatures across America, she is sharpening her focus on advocating for voting rights. She notes that voting restrictions ultimately produce health inequities.
“When voices are silenced in elections, democracy withers,” says Mariner.
Like Huberfeld, she also supports a move toward true universal coverage and is optimistic that this health system will become a reality in the US.
“I did not think that we would have anything resembling universal healthcare by the time I retired, but now I think we can,” Mariner says. “But we’re going to have to work very hard to keep moving forward. We have to pay close attention to the law. Otherwise, we could lose not only our health, but our democracy.”