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Prominent Akin Gump Health Partner Departs to Ropes & Gray

Feb. 3, 2020, 6:27 PM

Stephanie Webster, the attorney who won a landmark Supreme Court case requiring the government go through a notice-and-comment period before making substantive changes to federal health programs, has joined Ropes & Gray as a partner in its D.C. office, the firm told Bloomberg Law Monday.

Webster made the move from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which she joined in 2011 as a partner in D.C. with a focus on representing hospitals. She was at King & Spalding before that, and was also an attorney for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services during the Clinton administration.

She is most known for the Azar v. Allina Health Services case, in which the high court found the Department of Health & Human Services improperly changed Medicare payment rates without notice. Attorneys believe that the case established a legal right to notice and public comments and see it as a milestone health-care case.

Webster plans to continue to represent hospitals and health systems at Ropes & Gray, but she’s also hoping to expand her experience in working on Medicare reimbursement to working with other clients, like medical device companies, she said in an interview.

Webster said she handled a first-of-its-kind case last year on behalf of a medical device company that was denied a billing code by the CMS, and said other clients might benefit from the experience she gained.

Webster said she will continue to challenge agency actions, especially in the Medicare reimbursement realm. She has also been involved with other leading cases challenging Medicare reimbursement, like Baystate Medical Center v. Leavitt and Cape Cod Hospital v. Sebelius.

The Allina Health Services case is “changing the landscape in the Medicare realm for challenges to agency policy,” Webster said. As a result, there are a “number of areas in which there is potential for litigation.”

The case is already coming into play in United States ex rel. Polansky v. Exec. Health Res. Inc., where a court found that a defendant wasn’t liable under the False Claims Act because the enforcement standard wasn’t adopted under notice-and-comment.

Webster said she joined Ropes & Gray because she believed their deep and broad health-care practice would mesh with her work.

Her previous work in reimbursement is “core to the economies of our clients’ future,” said Tim McCrystal, co-chair of the Ropes & Gray global health practice. Webster will also be “critical” in working with private equity clients to provide an in-depth knowledge of the economics of health-care companies, Deborah Gersh, co-chair of the global health practice, said.

Ropes & Gray’s 2018 revenue was $1.75 billion, compared with just north of $1 billion at Akin Gump, according to the latest AmLaw figures. Equity partners earned $2.55 million at Ropes & Gray and $2.4 million at Akin Gump in 2018, on average.

—With assistance by Roy Strom

To contact the reporter on this story: Shira Stein in Washington at sstein@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com

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