From St. Louis Medical News
by Christopher Cussat
Modern Healthcare’s 2015 Healthcare Law Firms Survey recently named national law firm, Polsinelli, at the top of its list. This top ranking acknowledges that Polsinelli has built the largest Health Care Practice in the nation. Modern Healthcare’s rankings are based on a blended score of healthcare lawyers employed in 2014 and American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) memberships.
“This recognition from Modern Healthcare underscores the strength of our national Health Care Practice and commitment to serving clients in this dynamic and complex industry,” said Polsinelli Chairman, Russ Welsh.
Polsinelli represents a wide variety of healthcare clients including hospital and health systems, infusion therapy providers, health care technology companies, home health and hospice agencies and senior and long-term care facilities. Health Care attorneys provide a wide variety of services for clients, including mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, compliance issues, HIPAA and confidentiality compliance counseling, reimbursement, payor disputes, Medicare and Medicaid fraud allegations, medical staff and credentialing, risk management, public policy and real estate matters, 340B compliance and more.
One of the firm’s first healthcare attorneys, Randy Gerber, is Polsinelli’s St. Louis managing director. He illustrated the firm’s impressive growth by comparing its present size to its beginnings. “We were five lawyers primarily doing physician and hospital work. The expertise today is ten-fold and the number of lawyers is night and day – it is the difference between a small boutique firm and a large national firm.”
Today, Polsinelli has 15 healthcare attorneys in St. Louis alone and currently 190 lawyers and other professionals make up the practice in large cities all across the country including: Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Washington DC.
According to Matthew J. Murer, chair of Polsinelli’s healthcare practice in Chicago, the top three issues that clients are bringing to the firm are transactions, compliance and reimbursement, which he explained are all being driven by the Affordable Care Act. “The new reimbursement landscape is driving consolidation among providers as they look to build scale that will drive efficiency – this is driving a flood of acquisitions and affiliations.” He added that reimbursement has always been one of the most complex areas for healthcare providers and that the Affordable Care Act has only made it more complex. “Finally in regards to compliance, the federal government has ramped up its enforcement efforts from large scale audits to massive investigations into potential fraud, so every move made by a healthcare provider is subject to unprecedented scrutiny today.”
U.S. News & World Report also recently named Polsinelli the “Law Firm of the Year in Health Care” in its 2015 Best Law Firms report. The designation was based on Polsinelli’s overall performance in healthcare, incorporating both client feedback and peer review, and reflective of the firm’s growing talent pool, complete range of health care legal services, and geographic footprint across 18 cities.
But according to Polsinelli’s Jane Arnold, vice chair of its Health Care Practice in St. Louis, all of these rankings and recognitions are much more than just positive press. “For us, being number one is not a magazine ranking, but being top of mind with our clients and having them be really pleased with our work.” She added that it is all about providing expertise, insight, and delivering exceptional service that clients cannot get anywhere else. “That’s the real goal.”
Polsinelli is now in its sixth year as one of the fastest-growing law firms in the U.S., opening two new offices this year in Raleigh and Nashville (cities with a focus in the health care industry). The Health Care Practice has grown from two regional practices which merged in 2009 into a coast to coast national practice attracting sophisticated laterals across the country. The American Lawyer recently featured Polsinelli’s Health Care Practice as one that focuses on concentrating its attorneys in competitive markets with high demands for health care work.
This noticeable and continual growth was even part of Gerber’s initial interest in joining the firm nearly 15 years ago. “I can tell you there was always a plan to grow the group –that’s one of the reasons I came to Polsinelli. They sold me on the firm’s commitment to healthcare and they delivered.”
Murer related Polsinelli’s expansion to the overall growth evident in the healthcare industry. “The number of physicians and physician practices that have been acquired by large health systems is simply staggering – the entire landscape has changed.” He added that the doctors and the health systems are still working out how their evolving relationship will work and Polsinelli is at the center of that discussion. “As I mentioned, growth is being driven by the desire to have scale, and providers are hopeful that scale will lead to efficiency and to negotiating power with various payors. There is also a hope that scale will help ensure better patient outcomes, especially now that Medicare is focused on adjusting payments based upon outcomes.”
To determine the law firm rankings, Modern Healthcare utilized a survey methodology based on a blended score, including the sum of 50 percent weighting from data collected in the survey (number of health care lawyers) and 50 percent weighting of American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) membership from each firm, provided by the AHLA as of April 30, 2015. The AHLA also recently released its own national rankings, placing Polsinelli second among national law firms for the second consecutive year.
“We will continue to attract quality attorneys who want to grow their practices--that includes lawyers of all levels,” Gerber concluded. “I’m very proud of what we have built. It shows the talent of the firm, and we will continue to work very hard to maintain the quality of service we provide our clients.”