A St. Louis law firm with an emphasis on health care law is expanding its ability to guide clients through government investigations, licensing issues and payment disputes with insurers.
Earlier this month, Lashly & Baer announced the formation of its new health care advisory team. Stuart Vogelsmeier, executive vice president of the firm and chair of the team, said the addition has been driven by clients’ needs.
In the past, he said the firm fielded calls once every few months for such matters as government investigations, complaints against health care providers and payment disputes between providers and commercial insurance companies.
“The last two or three years, we’d get a call once a week from a client or a prospective client asking about one of those kinds of actions,” he said.
He said one reason for the uptick in inquiries is more aggressive government investigations of fraud in the health care system. Also, he said his firm has noticed an increase in the number of complaints made to the state’s Board of Healing Arts.
Vogelsmeier noted that any citizen can bring a complaint against a health care provider. He said the number of such complaints Lashly & Baer has handled has multiplied in the past five years.
“No matter how minor it seems, the state will send an investigator to sit down with a physician,” he said. He added that his firm also represents nursing homes, and it takes all complaints seriously.
“More and more providers are being impacted and calling us and saying, ‘Hey, we got a request to meet with somebody. What should we do? Should we have a lawyer?’” he said. “ . . . It’s part of what goes into being a health care provider these days, dealing with these kinds of matters.”
Vogelsmeier said the team is made up of attorneys with litigation and transactional backgrounds. In addition to Vogelsmeier, it includes Richard D. Watters, Matthew J. Eddy, Michael R. Barth, Matthew S. McBride and Richard W. Hill.
The firm is in the process of hiring two additional attorneys for the team. In the coming years, firm leaders hope to hire two more attorneys, expanding the team to 10 people total.
Vogelsmeier said he foresees the types of matters handled by the team as becoming an even bigger subset of the firm’s overall health care practice.
“We think we’re providing some value, and we see this as an area that’s going to keep expanding,” he said.