Villanova Law Student Wins Annual Health Law Writing Competition


Meggie McCarthy-White ’24 earned first place in the 2023 Epstein, Becker and Green Annual Health Law Writing Competition. This is the first time a Villanova Law student has won the competition, which launched 25 years ago. McCarthy-White ’24 was recognized for her paper, “Access to Courts as Access to Care: Children’s Medicaid Under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.” She was awarded a $7,500 prize.

The annual writing competition encourages law school students to submit scholarly papers on current topics of interest relating to health law. It is open to any JD and LLM degree candidates currently attending a law school in the United States.

McCarthy-White first developed her award-winning paper for Professor Ana Santos Rutschman’s course Health Care and the Law in the fall of 2022.

“I could not be prouder of Meggie for her hard work and achievement through this paper,” said Professor Santos Rutschman. “This award is incredibly prestigious and competitive – I am very happy to see her work receive recognition.”

McCarthy-White’s paper examines how the Supreme Court’s consideration in the case of Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County v. Talevski to strike down citizens' rights to sue under Title 42, Section 1983 of the U.S. Code could negatively impact children’s rights and access to health care through Medicaid.

Section 1983 allows citizens to sue state or local officials in federal court if they believe their constitutional or federal rights have been violated. It has been used to safeguard state-administered health programs for the past fifty years. McCarthy-White’s paper cites several examples of families using Section 1983 to sue their state Medicaid programs for limiting their child’s access to Medicaid’s “Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment” (EPSDT) benefit.

“Many people don’t realize that Medicaid insures nearly half of all children in the United States,” said McCarthy-White. “The EPSDT benefit is a critical source of children’s healthcare coverage and a key tool for reducing health inequities – families and providers use Section 1983 to protect children’s access to care.”

Although the Supreme Court did not strike down citizens’ rights to sue under Section 1983 in a June 2023 ruling, McCarthy-White remains passionate about the subject. Next September, she will begin a yearlong fellowship at the Pennsylvania Health Law Project, helping residents appeal Medicaid service denials.

“I hope my paper begins a bigger discussion about the importance of protecting Section 1983 for Medicaid beneficiaries and that it also highlights the critical role it plays in children’s access to health care,” she says. “I worked in health policy before law school, and now, through Villanova Law, I want to work in public interest law. I hope to become a leading expert on Medicaid and have a real chance to make a difference whenever the next opportunity for health care reform arises.”