Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson talks about health care reform at the Health, Labor, and Employment Law Institute on Thursday.
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Aug. 18, 2017 – It’s easy to see why Tommy Thompson served four terms as Wisconsin’s Governor and rose to Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush: Energy, charisma, and political acumen.
Those characteristics were on display at the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Health, Labor, and Employment Law Institute in Wisconsin Dells, where former Gov. Thompson was a featured speaker, telling war stories and providing perspectives on current events.
Fresh off the Republican effort to repeal and replace one of former President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishments, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Gov. Thompson says health care policy-making has suffered from a central problem: partisanship.
He says history shows us that major pieces of legislation – like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – have stood over time because they had bipartisan support. The ACA began on shaky ground, he said, because only Democrats supported it.
Repeal and replace efforts failed because Republicans presented new proposals that were not acceptable to Democrats. A bipartisan effort is needed, he says.
“When you do something big in America, on a bipartisan basis, it usually stands,” said former Gov. Thompson, who told the story of Medicare Part D, the prescription drug bill that was enacted under his leadership as HHS Secretary.
At the time, in the early 2000s, the Republicans controlled the U.S. House and the Democrats controlled the U.S. Senate. Thompson worked with leaders on both sides to pass a bill with bipartisan support, a feat that largely undermined any future repeal.
“It’s working, and it’s popular. When they found out all the seniors liked it, they never introduced another bill to repeal it,” he said. “I go back to that example to show that when you do something that people want, on a bipartisan basis, you can get it done.
“What we have now is Obamacare going down and no replacement bill. If you really want to do a good job for America, you have to have a bipartisan coalition coming together and developing a new health insurance program,” he said. “That’s where you come in.”
Thompson said lawyers, who see the issues every day in practice, can play a large role in shaping health care in America by sending ideas on how to make the system better.
He also provided some of his own ideas. First, Thompson thinks health insurance premiums should be tax deductible. Second, he thinks consumers should be able to buy health insurance wherever they want. “You can buy anything across the country. You can find the best deals on cars, from Florida to California. Why not health insurance?”
Insurance companies should be more involved in proposals that can work, he said. And to have a viable health insurance market, people have to buy health insurance.
“So what’s wrong with having a mandate that people have to buy health insurance?” he asked. “Republicans have a big problem with it, but I see nothing wrong with it.”
“Those are just four basic things you could change that would bring more people into the marketplace to start buying health insurance. We should be able to get it done.”
An FBI Perspective on Cybersecurity
Do computer hacks and network breaches keep you up at night? Listen to FBI Special Agent Byron Franz speak on cybersecurity issues, and you might be up for days. Terms like “spear-phishing” and “drive-by-downloads” don’t help the cyber nightmares, either.
FBI Special Agent Byron P. Franz opens HLE with a plenary session, "Protecting Against the Cyber Threat in America's Dairyland."
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Good news, though. Although data security is not 100 percent preventable, lawyers and law firms can greatly reduce the threats through mitigation efforts. You can control it.
Special Agent Franz is private sector coordinator in the cyber squad unit of Milwaukee’s FBI field office. He focuses on cyber computer crime issues but also interacts with law firms, private sector corporations, and state and local entities to cooperatively build defenses against hackers and insiders who try to steal proprietary data.
He said one of the most prominent and consistent threats is “phishing” or “spear-phishing.” Phishing involves mass distribution. Spear-phishing is a targeted attack against one individual or entity. It’s usually a text or email with a link or attachment.
“You can think of that attachment, if you don’t know who it’s coming from, as an unexploded grenade, and you have the right to pull the pin on yourself or not,” he said.
“If it’s malignant and people click on these things, it unloads and unfolds, like an evil flower, a virus in your computer or your network, allowing someone to introduce ransomware that encrypts all of your data, or steal proprietary information,” he said.
This is 9/10ths of the problem, he says. Scary, eh? Well law firms, he says, are particularly enticing for hackers because they house a lot of confidential information about a lot of clients. In other words, it’s a one-stop-shop for valuable information.
But guess what? You can mitigate the risk, Franz says. “Most attacks take place because of something the user does. They usually open the cyber door or the cyber window that allows the attacker into your cyber house.”
“There are things that lawyers, law firms, clients, and anybody else at home can do to try and mitigate or lower the risk that these windows and doors will be opened.”
First, take stock of who is sending the email. Read it completely. Look for misspellings. With links, you can hover over the link to see the source, or (without clicking on it) drop it into a free site such as VirusTotal to see if it’s malignant or known to be a malignant one.
“We recommend that firms employ phish testing, which is also called ‘red-teaming.’ Your own IT team or an outside service pose as attackers, sending emails, to see how many employees fall for it,” explained Special Agent Franz, a dynamic speaker who noted other threats and gave attendees other tools to help mitigate the risks.
Other Speakers at HLE
At the two-day HLE Institute that concluded today, numerous lawyers gave presentations in breakout sessions on health law, labor and employment law, and practical perspectives that crossed both practice area sectors.
Some of those sessions were recorded and will be available as future webcast replays. For attendees who missed a session, the first two replay dates (Sept. 6 & Oct. 13) will be available as part of their registration package. Check the WisBar marketplace. Here’s a sampling of sessions that marked another successful HLE Institute:
Health Law Update. “For practitioners, stay steady,” said David Cade, CEO of the American Health Lawyers Association in Washington, D.C. “There was a flurry of activity about repealing and replacing the ACA. I don’t think it’s going happen. The bottom line is the ACA is still the law of the land. And practitioners have a lot of opportunity for innovation.”
The Impact of Budgetary Changes and LIRC Elimination: “The proposal to eliminate LIRC has been removed from the budget bill and is no longer under consideration,” said Daniel Finerty, of Lindner & Marsack S.C. Milwaukee. “However, provisions like this that are removed from a budget bill often have a way of resurfacing.” Finerty noted pending cases challenging the deference that courts give to LIRC and other agency decisions.
HIPAA – Not Just for Health Lawyers Anymore: HIPAA applies to “covered entities” like health care providers, but also to “business associates,” including law firms who will handle protected health information. “Even if you are not subject to HIPAA, a security assessment is important because law firms are dealing with all sorts of confidential information,” said Meghan O’Conner, of von Briesen & Roper S.C. Milwaukee.
Getting Tough Cases to the Mediation Table: Lawyers should consider mediation if initial negotiations have failed. If mediation is on the table, what’s next? “Lawyers should prepare the client. Talk about what the process will be like, the role of the mediator, and how their role will be different than in the adversarial context of a trial,” said Jill Hamill Sopha of Sopha Mediation LLC, Pewaukee. “This is their chance to settle the case.”