Hopefully with this health information exchange, we can bend that
curve and get some of our people healthier by understanding what
kind of care they need, what their current status is, and then helping
the physicians provide the best care possible.
Q: It must be a really exciting time for you to be involved in this.
A: You know what? Every day is an exciting time in health care
because the law changes throughout the year. We just went through
all the changes to HIPAA, with new regulations under the HITECH
[Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health]
Act and then we’ve had recent changes to EMTALA [the Emergency
Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act], as well as our state’s
advance directive laws. There is never a boring time in health care.
But PPACA’s [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] making
it very interesting. With a split in the circuits, now anticipating
what the Supreme Court is likely to do with the law is interesting
because you can see how it could go either way. By the time the
Supreme Court gets to it, we’re already going to have so much of it
implemented. Whether you like it or not, the way it was crafted is to
have the most publicly popular aspects go into effect early, and if
those new benefits are taken away from people, you’re going to hear
some howling through the populace because they will have come to
like it that their children can stay on their insurance to age 26 and
that Medicare now covers annual check-ups and more preventative
care. Many people will not want to give that up.
The people on Medicare like it that they can get preventative
health care at no charge. They like getting counseled on end-of-life decision-making. Of course, the counseling on end-of-life care
had to come out of the bill because Sarah Palin famously called
such counseling a “death panel.” But some of the things that are
implemented and are in effect, [like] the requirement that you cannot
be turned down for health insurance because of a pre-existing
condition—well, the insurance companies would go bankrupt if the
law didn’t also require everybody to have insurance when you have to
insure people with pre-existing conditions. If the individual mandate
is the only part of the bill ruled unconstitutional, people would be
able to wait to buy insurance until they are sick, and that would drive
up health insurance premiums exponentially for everyone.
It seems like many of the people against the health care reform bill
don’t see the individual mandate to buy insurance and the obligation
for insurers to cover pre-existing conditions as the same coin, just
different sides. You can’t have one requirement without the other
without causing all the private sector insurance companies to suffer
financially or making health insurance too expensive for employers
or individuals to buy. You have to require everybody to be covered if
you’re making insurance companies take all comers, regardless of
their health condition. And that’s a challenging argument to make in
our red state.
Q: What do you consider the most challenging part of your job?
A: It’s very challenging to handle a piece of litigation in a manner
that is not overwhelming cost-wise for a client. Litigation is expensive
and there’s really not any way to do it cheaply, and you can’t control
it because the other side dictates much of what you have to do.
With the increase in electronic discovery, simply obtaining all the
documents involved in a case can run into six figures in consultant
costs. If they want to take 15 depositions, you have to defend them
and you have to prepare the witnesses for them. You can’t do that
inexpensively. To do an excellent job and make sure we succeed but
meet the client’s cost concerns is the hardest thing for me.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part about being a lawyer?
A: Having a happy client. I’ve had a number of clients comment after
we finish something that, after talking with me, they’re able to sleep
at night because they’ve been so worried about some complaint or
investigation or lawsuit.
A nurse is a service profession and that was my first career. I
still want to be in a helping profession, and I still consider what I
do as a lawyer to be in a helping profession where I am providing
a service. It’s a very personal service, and to relieve fear and to
relieve burdens and to have a client say, “I’m not afraid anymore,”
is just fantastic. Because that’s really what it’s all about. We’re here
to provide a service and maybe not cure their medical ills, but to
cure their legal ills and make them not worried about a lawsuit or
managing to comply with new complex regulations. Most things
in law can be dealt with. Sometimes in health care, you’re going
to lose a patient, but at least in the law, it is unlikely that someone
will die as a result of a legal decision. Remembering that helps you
keep your perspective. Nobody’s gonna die, no matter what. And
that’s an important difference. I think that was one thing that was
good about working as a nurse all the way through law school—I
didn’t ever really get drawn into the law school dramas and things
because I was working in critical care dealing with patients who
were losing their lives because of heart disease. Then to go to law
school the next day and get called on in class was just not the worst
part of my day because there were people that had real problems
back there at the hospital. It kept me very grounded and with a
good perspective, I think.
Q: Is there anything I didn’t ask about that you’d like to mention?
A: I haven’t talked a lot about my law partners. I tell you what, working
in a collegial environment with bright people who also love to practice
law is one of the greatest privileges I have as a professional. Working
with committed, high-caliber professionals who get along well and
serve their clients well is an enormous privilege. I never want to lose
sight of the fact that this is a law firm with an excellent reputation for
putting our clients’ needs first. Coming to work every day is a joy when
you have law partners like that.