Miller Johnson attorney heads up state bar Health Care Law section

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by Cynthia Price
Legal News

“Moving target” is an understatement when it comes to the ins and outs of health care law, so it is not surprising that the State Bar of Michigan Health Care Law section focuses on education.

The section council has just elected Timothy C. Gutwald of Miller Johnson as its chair, after he spent a year as chair-elect.

Gutwald comments, “It happens all the time — the government just came out with new conditions of participation for nursing homes, for example. The health care field is very broad and there are lots of different types of providers.
That’s why I think our section is very valuable. There are constantly new rules and regulations, and I’m guessing that regardless of who wins the election, the government will continue to make changes. So one of our main focuses is keeping our members up to date.”

Between the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as ACA or, colloquially, “Obamacare”), the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, and all the state permutations regarding health care law, there has been an abundance of uncertainty and last-minute change.

The section holds webinars each month except in the summer. “We also participate with ICLE on the Health Care Law Institute and play an active role in helping to get speakers for that,” Gutwald says.

The next session  will be March 9-10, 2017, at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth. Gutwald will give an introduction and also serve on a panel regarding concierge medicine; there will be sessions on threats posed by ransomware (given by Leonard Levy of Spectrum Health and Nathan Steed of Warner Norcross and Judd), civil rights in health care, prescription drugs, innovative payment arrangements, health care employment law, and many others.

The need for such education may also explain the broad membership in the section. At over 1,000 members, it is one of the largest in the State Bar, and membership includes everyone from private practice attorneys to corporate counsel in a wide range of sectors including government and academia.

Though one of the section’s missions is “To serve the health care community and advocate on behalf of its interests concerning state and federal legislation and public policy which affect the practice of health care law and related issues,” Gutwald says that the section’s diverse membership means, “It can be difficult to have a stance that doesn’t offend certain members.” However, there is an active legislative committee which monitors legislation and gives monthly reports so that the leadership can determine if they need to weigh in.

The section is also charged with serving as an educational resource for other members of the State Bar and for the overall health care community.

Referring to himself as “a bit of a generalist within health care,” Gutwald says his practice reflects just how broad the field of health care law is. His clients include hospitals, assisted and long-term care providers, labs, pharmacies, physician groups and mental health care providers. He is a member of Miller Johnson’s Health Care Providers, Privacy and Data Security, Health Care Provider Reimbursement practice group as well as the firm’s Health Care Reform Team.

Gutwald advises his clients on compliance and other matters and also represents them. He is licensed to practice in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in addition to the state courts.

“A real high point for me was winning summary judgement and having it upheld in the Sixth Circuit in a case where a physician’s privileges were terminated over quality of care issues. We helped handle that on the provider’s defense side all the way through the Sixth Circuit,” he says.

Prior to starting at Miller Johnson (where he was when that case reached resolution) in January 2015, Gutwald practiced with other firms since his admission in 2007. His latest employment was with a national firm, Hall Render, which does exclusively health care law.

Gutwald graduated from Kalamazoo College before attending Michigan State University College of Law, from which he graduated magna cum laude and participated in moot court and received jurisprudence awards in business enterprise. Over his career, he has also been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star.

Gutwald’s counseling covers telemedicine, Stark and Anti-Kickback compliance analysis, HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which governs protecting patients’ health information) and HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act), licensing, and employment issues particularly as it relates to both large and small physician groups.

“One thing I do that’s kind of a specialty is advise on medical staff peer review and physician discipline,” Gutwald says.

The increasing relevance of that type of legal counsel is occasioned by the changes in the way health care systems engage physicians, which has meant more doctors affiliating in groups and then creating relationships with the providers.

“I think that’s more and more the case because physicians seem to find no longer having to deal with billing and HR issues and all of that is a positive thing. From the providers’ point of view, maintaining high quality and continuity of care is easier if you have more control over hiring,” Gutwald observes.

But he has gained expertise in other areas as well, and monitors what may be developing both for the sake of his own clients and for the State Bar section.

“HIPAA is a big hot area right now with all that’s happening in cyberware security,” Gutwald says.

“There are very specific regulations as far as systems security and encryption of PHI [Protected Health Information]. But it’s complicated in health care law, especially when you’re communicating with patients. Not all have access to electronic communication, especially when you consider patients with disabilities. It becomes very complex to both meet the needs of the patients as well as comply with the laws and regulations.”

Gutwald is a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the American Health Lawyers Association, and he co-authored a chapter addressing EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act) in the 2016 Representing Hospitals & Health Systems.

Previously the chair of the Health Care Law Section’s Substantive Law Committee, Gutwald says he intends to stay involved with the section council for a least the next few years, but has recently become involved in Meritas, a global alliance and network of law firms intended to provide seamless referrals for clients if their legal needs move from place to place. “They just started up a health care practice group and I sit on the steering committee,” he says. He says he is also likely to become more involved in the American Health Lawyers Association.

As far as the Health Care Law Section, Gutwald says, “My predecessors have been very good and very well-organized. For the last two years we’ve focused on the social and networking aspects of our section. We’ve gotten a Twitter account and a Facebook group, and I think we’ll continue in that direction – additional social media, but also in-person networking events.”
 

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