Practice Focus Area: Health
Office: New York
Years at Firm: 6 years
What is your favorite part about practicing healthcare law at McDermott?
The people and the variety. I have to be honest that when I left government service with the HHS Office of Inspector General, I did not expect to find even a similar type of camaraderie at Big Law given the time pressures and demands. I have been pleasantly surprised by how the health group truly functions as a team. People help each other out, whether it is to contribute to a pitch, thought piece, or client project, and do so with enthusiasm. This espirit de corps is an ingrained part of the culture.
And I am happiest when I have variety in my work. At McDermott, I work with clients across the healthcare spectrum, from health systems, physician practices and post-acute providers and suppliers, life sciences and technology companies as well as payors. These clients present many regulatory issues to grapple with and having this broad industry viewpoint helps give the best-informed advice and identify practical solutions.
What is the biggest opportunity and greatest challenge facing clients in your area of focus today?
It is a bit of a cliché to say healthcare is always changing, but sometimes clichés are true. We have a confluence of a few large issues 1) changing payment models in part driven by government budgets and aging population, 2) incredible advances in medicine – which are expensive to produce and deliver, 3) emergence of telemedicine as a permanent feature of the delivery system, bringing new players who are not used to thinking about things like the AKS and Stark Law and patient inducements, and 4) competitive landscape between PE entering healthcare in a significant way and in competition with health systems, who are trying to maintain market strength and commercial payor revenue to offset losses on government program payments and care to uninsured.
All this activity is happening in a regulatory backdrop that is based on a fee-for-service payment system that is suspicious of financial relationships between referral sources and recipients. Decisions need to be made against the backdrop of the risk of the government or a whistleblower second-guessing those decisions and being faced with the expense and risk of an investigation where the leverage is lopsided in the government’s favor. In other words, making the best informed decision on the front end of an arrangement is the best risk mitigation strategy in an ever-changing and evolving regulatory and enforcement environment.
What kind of client work gets you most excited when it comes across your desk?
I returned to private practice because I missed helping clients solve problems and achieve their mission. In healthcare, that mission is to deliver high-quality care to patients who need it, so it is an easy mission to get excited about! I most enjoy helping put something new together, such as helping launch a new business line or relationship to grow the client’s business, by navigating the ways the fraud and abuse laws that can impact achieving that goal. This work includes developing the right compliance programs systems and processes to help manage risk, educate employees and ensure that compliance problems do not occur, or if they do, the problem is promptly corrected. I also enjoy helping clients work through assessing compliance issues found through their compliance programs or as part of a government investigation. This last category is the most difficult and stressful for clients to experience and solving these problems is another way I can help advance the client’s business and mission.
What is the proudest moment of your career to date?
My first day of work at OIG. At that moment, I felt a combination of pride in what I had accomplished and gratitude for those who helped me and paved the way before me. No one in my family is a lawyer and few went to college, so I did not have a lot of models to draw from in mapping my goal to become a lawyer. Then I graduated during the 2001 recession, which was not a great time to be a new lawyer. A few years later, somehow through a combination of hard work, lots of support and a fair amount of good luck and timing, I ended up working at my “dream job” from law school. I also thought about how grateful I was to be an out and proud gay federal employee when that was not possible not that long ago.
What is your favorite decoration in your office?
I have spent some time curating my home office in our new house in the Hudson Valley area over the past year, so I have to pick a few things: the clock my OIG team gave me when I left, a Sonny and Cher mousepad, the black cat who occasionally visits me during the day and a perfect photograph of a wave crashing on the beach. My husband is an amateur photographer and he takes the best pictures on his phone. The beach is my happy place.