The new health reform law is a “lawyer's full-employment program” in the eyes of many Americans, Sen. Ron Wyden (D. Ore.) told a ballroom packed with lawyers at the annual meeting of the American Health Lawyers Association.
'Change is coming ... fast'
Group examines ambiguities in reform law
It was the near-obligatory lawyer joke that comes at some point during a speech to lawyers, yet there appears to be some truth in this one.
The meeting last week in Seattle attracted 1,350 attendees, up from the roughly 1,000 at the group's 2009 meeting, which was staged in Washington, when overhauling the nation's healthcare laws was the top ambition of the Obama administration.
Peter Leibold, the AHLA's executive vice president and CEO, said that some improvement in the financial outlook of his members' firms played a role and that they were seeing healthcare as a growth market demanding some attention and investment. “It's the economy and it's health reform,” Leibold said. “Even though law firms and providers and plans are being cautious, they are loosening up where it comes to learning about health reform.”
Firms are learning healthcare may be one of the strongest areas as segments of the economy and their practices remain weak, Leibold said, and would be transferring members or recruiting young ones.
Many of the meeting's sessions were dedicated to parsing the language of the statute and identifying those areas that remain ambiguous even as providers leap to stay ahead of the curve on new payment models as well as avoid becoming ensnared in the government's stepped-up enforcement of antitrust and fraud and abuse laws.
Several presenters noted that details about how to structure an accountable care organization are particularly scarce. Gary Scott Davis, a partner in the law firm McDermott Will & Emery, noted that in the eyes of Congress, they're a cost-containment measure. “CMS is really making this up as they go along, as is the private-sector marketplace,” Davis said.
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