Health Care and Transportation Attorney at Erickson & Sederstrom, P.C.
Adjunct faculty at Creighton law school
It wasn’t that many years ago that Adam Kuenning, JD’13, was a student at Creighton law school. A health care and transportation attorney at Erickson & Sederstrom, P.C., L.L.O., in Omaha, Kuenning is also an adjunct faculty member back at his alma mater, teaching Health Care Organization (LAW 376) and HIPAA Privacy and Security at the Ahmanson Law Center. He spoke to us about how he got into health law.
Did you get a health law certificate with your JD while a student at Creighton law school?
I didn’t, as the program didn’t start until a couple years later. I also didn’t plan to be a health care attorney while in law school. As a student, I worked for the United States Air Force as a contract specialist. When I left the federal government, I practiced in Broken Bow, Nebraska, with my mother, who is also an attorney. I then returned to Omaha to practice with my current firm and wound up practicing health care law because the firm had a need for it, and because I already had experience with much of the vernacular from my days dispatching air medical transport aircraft.
What interests you about health law, and what are some of the more interesting cases you have worked on so far in your career?
Prior to law school I worked with the industry-leading air medical transportation company, where I dispatched medical helicopters and aircraft to transport patients. That was my first introduction to the health care industry. My background is in aerospace (pilot and former air traffic controller), so I knew a lot about the aviation side of air medical transportation, but I didn’t have much of an appreciation for the rules, regulations and laws applicable to the provision of health care. I became more involved with health care laws when I transitioned into a supervisory role with the transportation company.
Luckily, the regulations and laws applicable to health care are, at least from a framework perspective, quite similar to those applicable to aviation, so it was a pretty easy transition to health care from my prior experience in aviation. I’m very fortunate that I am able to utilize both skillsets at my firm, where I primarily practice health law, but I also practice transportation law (aviation and trucking, mostly).
I have worked on several interesting cases as you see some really unique scenarios in health law. For example, the type of scenarios that you see on a law school final examination and think to yourself, “these questions are absurd, this would never happen in real life!” actually do happen a lot. Broadly speaking, I find it very rewarding to be able to help health care providers ranging from multistate health systems to solo practitioners.
What prompted you to return to teach health law at Creighton law school?
I have been involved in training and development throughout my career, so I bring a very functional perspective to education and health law generally. By way of background, I have taught undergraduate business and undergraduate political science classes in the Omaha area in the past. When the opportunity to teach at Creighton became available, I jumped at the opportunity. I’m always impressed with the Creighton law students. I hope these students have an experience at Creighton that is an influential on their lives as I did.
When the health law program was first started, I was contacted about teaching. I am teaching Health Care Organization (LAW 376) and HIPAA Privacy and Security in the spring 2018 semester. Given my background and practice in aerospace, I’ve also proposed a drone law class to the law school but it hasn’t caught on yet. We’ll get it on the schedule at some point.
What do you see as the benefits of obtaining the health law certificate with a JD?
A common misconception of students and many clients is that health law relates exclusively to representing people injured by medical treatment, but this isn’t true. Medical malpractice law is a branch of personal injury litigation that is a specialized niche of health law, at most. Many also think health law simply covers relates to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) and information privacy. But it’s so much more than that.
Health law classes address topics such as private insurance and state/federal health care payment systems, fraud and abuse within those systems, and the plethora of laws applicable to those systems. There may be one or two classes that address medical malpractice topics, but such concerns are usually outside the purview of health law.
It is important to understand that health law is an industry practice. That means that there are – or may be, and therefore you need to check – health laws applicable to almost every other area of law. To illustrate, someone may be at law school thinking “jeez, I’d love to be a [certain type of] lawyer” (e.g., real estate, estate planning, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, employment, criminal defense, prosecutorial, etc.) and not realize that there may be opportunities in the field of health law for lawyers with those types of interest. Health care is a huge industry and the regulations applicable to it certainly aren’t going to shrink anytime soon. Having a health law certificate with your JD can open many doors in the complex practice of health law.