SAN FRANCISCO – The first applications are now being accepted for a new, online, one-year master’s program designed to address the growing demand for experts in health policy and law.

A collaboration of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of California, Hastings College of Law (UC Hastings), the Master of Science in Health Policy and Law addresses the various regulatory changes resulting from recent legislation, particularly the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to the program manager for health policy at UCSF, Jessaca Machado, the program had its roots in a consortium between the two schools, founded in 2008, that looked to share legal and health expertise.

“Both institutions have recognized for a long time the need to...get health professionals and legal professional talking,” Machado told Northern California Record. “But the [ACA] really kind of split this wide open and really brought it to the forefront of the nation’s attention.”

Passed in 2010, ACA included nearly 1,000 pages of legislation affecting all areas of health care policy. Among its more controversial provisions are the requirement that all Americans carry some form of health insurance. There’s a number of complicated provisions beyond insurance, however, such as penalties for emergency rooms that have a patient readmitted too often or too quickly.

Machado said the school expects its first cohort to attract approximately  30 students in its inaugural year, targeting professionals already in the industry to expand into more health policy roles. But those roles, she said, are rapidly developing in the realm of health care, creating many new opportunities for leadership. She said the program can help a wide range of industries, from government and management, to education and biotech.

“I think that’s what so great about it, is that it’s such an interdisciplinary program, that there’s such a huge span of career opportunities,” she said. “Any way that you can think to improve the health care system, this degree can help.”

The program features two specialized tracks: health policy and health law. Machado said that the policy track will likely appeal to those who want to stay on the “research” side of health care, while the law track will help those more interested in translating research into good policy.

Machado said she believes the program is the first of its kind in the region, if not nationwide. Though many schools have rigorous health law programs, she notes, few have full programs that address policy.

The final deadline for the fall program is May 1. Applicants can choose between a part-time or full-time program, spanning one or two years.

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