ABA Health eSource
October 2010 Volume 7 Number 3

Chair's Column
By Linda A. Baumann, Arent Fox LLP, Washington, DC

 Even If You’ve Never Attended the Washington Healthcare Summit, Be Sure to go This Year!

By now you should have received the brochure with the agenda for the Washington Healthcare Summit (“the Summit”); one of the Health Law Section’s primary in-person conferences. The Summit will be held Dec. 6-7, 2010 at the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City in Arlington, VA. You can access the brochure with the agenda and registration information here. This is the eighth annual Summit and believe it or not, a number of people signed up before the program was even announced. This is a tribute both to the consistent high quality of the speakers and participants as well as the Summit Planning Committee that works so hard each year to pull everything together.

Key Government Officials Speak on a Wide Range of Healthcare Reform-Related Topics

This year’s Summit obviously is focused on many facets of healthcare reform as well as other cutting edge issues. The Planning Committee, co-chaired by Kirk Nahra and David Douglass, this year has put together a remarkable program. The agenda covers a wide range of topics with an outstanding and impressive group of speakers from numerous key government agencies as well as private practice and other settings. In addition to the always popular Congressional Roundtable, the Attorney General Perspective and the Enforcement and Compliance Roundtable, there are panels on the Future of Health Care Reform, Accountable Care Organizations, Insurance Reform and the States, Recent Program Integrity Initiatives, Key Tax Issues, Comparative Effectiveness, Enforcement and Compliance Confronting the Pharmaceutical and Device Industries, Medicare Advantage and Part D, the Anti-Trust Implications of Health Care Reform, The Constitutional Challenges to Health Care Reform, Medical Marijuana Laws, Health Reform’s Impact on Benefit Plans and the Present and Future of Health Care Privacy. The speakers come from the Hill, HHS, (including CMS, OIG, and AHRQ), FDA, FTC, DOJ, IRS, DOL, SEC, as well as NABP, NAIC, NGA, AHA, think tanks, academia, etc. (You may want to attend the Summit just to learn what some of these acronyms stand for!)

Meet Your Colleagues (from the Government and Other Practice Settings)

One of the best “hidden secrets” about the Summit is its relatively small size and the large number of government attorneys who attend as well as speak on panels. Last year over half of the paid attendees at the Summit were government attorneys. When you attend the Summit as a private practitioner or in-house counsel, you may well have a chance to meet informally with a Hill staffer or regulator you will have to work with at some point in the future or have only corresponded with by phone or email. As a government attorney, you may have the chance to find out more about the industry’s perspectives and practical concerns about certain issues. In any event, it’s a chance to meet your colleagues and think about some of the big picture issues as well as the realities of implementation and enforcement of specific provisions. In addition, many of the Section Interest Groups, including the new Long Term Care Task Force, will be hosting roundtable discussions during breakfast Tuesday morning. (It’s a great chance to see if you might want to add another Interest Group to your Section membership; remember you can join up to three for free!)

The Summit’s History

I’d like to share a little inside background on the Summit with you, since it exemplifies many of the best characteristics of the Section. First, the Section is always open to good, new ideas. The creation of a conference that focuses on the many intersections between health law and the government is the brainchild of Bonnie Brier, a former Section Chair. Bonnie also wanted to develop a program that would encourage government lawyers to feel welcome and to actively participate in the Section. The Washington, DC area seemed like the perfect venue for such a conference since it would be easier to attract government speakers and government participants who wouldn’t need to travel far to attend. The idea of creating a major new conference from scratch is always a little daunting, but was even more so in this case. The Section had lost money on a few conferences in the past and there was some thought that it would be more financially prudent to stick with (less expensive) teleconferences. Nevertheless, the potential advantages were so obvious and exciting that the Section Council approved the concept and set up the Planning Committee.

The fact that I was asked to serve as one of the co-chairs of the Planning Committee for the first Summit demonstrates the leadership opportunities available to Section members. I was a relative newcomer to the Section and had never been on a program Planning Committee before. My primary qualifications were that I was enthusiastic and had worked hard on other Section assignments (having served on The Health Lawyer Editorial Board and worked on the Fraud and Abuse treatise that ultimately was published by the Section and BNA Books). Moreover, since my co-chair was Patricia Meador, a wonderful health lawyer and former Section Chair, it was an incredible opportunity to learn from one of the best. However, much as I loved working on the Summit, Section policy requires rotation and I had to move on after a few years so there would be opportunities for others.

I served as a co-chair for the Summit’s first three years with numerous, wonderful Planning Committee members who did yeoman’s duty tracking down speakers who could provide invaluable insights on the substantive issues as well as the political context (from the Hill, the Administration, academia, the media, Attorney General and other state government offices as well as private practitioners, in-house counsel and others). The search for Summit speakers is incredibly challenging because of the vagaries of the political process. (It’s probably as close as I’ll ever come to feeling like an air traffic controller – a crash can happen at any moment.) No one wants to commit to speak before you have to get the brochure printed, and there’s always the risk that Congress will go in or out of session or schedule a vote at a totally inopportune moment, e.g., when the Congressperson or a key staffer is supposed to be speaking at the Summit. When your plenary speaker cancels literally the night before the Summit is due to start, you need good friends with outstanding political skills. (I’m not going to name names, but the miracle worker who got a well-known member of Congress to substitute at absolutely the last minute is a speaker at this year’s Summit where she will no doubt demonstrate some of that remarkable expertise.) These columns are far too short to recognize everyone individually but many of these individuals from prior Summit Planning Committees have remained Section stalwarts and become close friends.

The Planning Committee members for this year’s Summit have done a phenomenal job in putting together this outstanding program. In addition, the Summit could never take place without the superb and dedicated efforts of Section staff who not only had to do their “day jobs” but also had to step in and cover the Summit while we continue our search for a meeting planner.

Finally, I wanted to close this Chair’s Column by noting that the Section’s new Director, Wanda Workman, started with us on Nov. 1, 2010. Be sure to introduce yourself to Wanda; she’s looking forward to meeting you.


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