Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Health Care Consolidation Spurs Legal Sector Growth

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Health Care Consolidation Spurs Legal Sector Growth

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

As legal implications of health care continue to grow, the need for more lawyers focusing on issues affecting the industry becomes necessary, according to an Oklahoma City attorney.

"I think that there will be more specialization in the field because it has became so complicated that many general practice lawyers have difficulty working in the field," said Laura L. Cross, shareholder and director at Miller, Dollarhide, Dawson and Shaw law firm.

Consolidation of health care systems has led to growth in the health law industry both in Oklahoma and nationwide.

This consolidation is expected to continue as a result of increased federal scrutiny and consumer demand to receive quality care at cheaper prices, Cross said.

"There is a greater deal of merging and consolidation of health care providers all the way from the hospitals forming large systems that cover the whole state, to physicians who have previously been sole practitioners joining into group practice or becoming employees of a health care system," Cross said. "Physical therapists and dentists are joining together as well."

With the increased number of alliances and consolidations occurring, more complicated regulations have arisen in the industry. As a result, health care providers are facing a greater need for legal advice.

"We are seeing a lot more activity," said Karen Rieger, a shareholder of Crowe and Dunlevy.

"People are coming to us to help them with consolidation. . . to help them with understanding the myriad of regulation of the industry," Rieger said.

"The regulatory environment has gotten somewhat stricter. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement is tightening. People are looking for ways to be more competitive."

Although nothing was passed in the last Congressional session, several state and federal initiatives have been passed in recent years to push initial regulation on health care providers, Cross said. These include continued regulations from the office of inspector general, as well as laws regarding physician self referral and antitrust violations.

Proposed and final regulations from the office of the inspector general include laws that define when a provider is safe from claims of fraud and abuse, according to Cross. …

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