Thomas Barker, Former General Counsel of the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Joins Foley Hoag’s Washington Office

March 3, 2009

Foley Hoag LLP announced that Thomas Barker, the former acting General Counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and a legislative veteran who has worked on health care policy issues on both sides of the aisle, has joined the firm as a partner in its Healthcare and Life Sciences practices.

Mr. Barker will be splitting his time between the firm’s Washington, DC and Boston offices and will focus on complex federal legal and regulatory health care policy matters and general rule makings.

Mr. Barker served in a succession of high-level federal health care policy positions throughout the Bush Administration and most recently served as acting General Counsel and policy advisor under HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt.

While serving as acting General Counsel, Mr. Barker oversaw a staff of some 450 attorneys responsible for reviewing every regulation and interpretive guidance published by the Department. Mr. Barker was also in charge of interpreting proposed and enacted health care legislation in Congress, and providing legal advice to Secretary Leavitt, along with the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service and Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Mr. Barker played a key role in the implementation of several major health policy initiatives during his time at HHS:  the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit; Medicaid modernization; the President’s agenda on health care transparency and health information technology; and the President’s health care access proposals. He also chaired HHS briefings on Medicare and Medicaid policy, and assisted in the initiative to rebuild the New Orleans health care infrastructure following Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Barker was on hand for multiple milestones in federal health care policy in recent years. He helped enact Medicare part D in 2003; served as the administration’s lead negotiator with Congress on Medicare and Katrina relief provisions in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005; helped draft President Bush’s Executive Order on health care transparency; served as HHS negotiator on the pharmaceutical and medical device provisions of the U.S.-South Korean Free Trade Agreement; developed health care initiatives for the President’s State of the Union Addresses in 2007 and 2008; was principal liaison between HHS and the Department of Treasury on tax issues for health care;  and served as collaborator in the Health Care Forum as part of the Strategic Economic Dialogue with the Chinese government.

“Thomas Barker has been at the center of every major national health care initiative undertaken by the federal government over the past eight years – he has a tremendous grasp of policy issues and implementation, and knows his way around complex infrastructure and technology matters as well as thorny budget and political considerations.   We are very fortunate, as well as honored, to have him join us,” said Nick Littlefield, a partner in the Life Sciences practice and Chair of the Government Strategies group.

Mr. Littlefield noted that in addition to his experience in the Executive Branch and on Capitol Hill, Mr. Barker has grounding in private sector health care concerns, having served as regulatory counsel and policy director for the Massachusetts Hospital Association for nearly a decade, from 1992-2001.

“Tom is one of the few lawyers in this industry that has a 360-degree perspective, which will make him an invaluable addition to our firm – he brings a unique understanding of the challenges facing all stakeholders in our nation’s health care system,” Mr. Littlefield added.

While Deputy General Counsel at HHS, Mr. Barker developed final regulations implementing the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003.  And he directed litigation involving provider reimbursement disputes, including a government request for a writ of certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court.  As acting General Counsel at HHS, he is on the FDA’s brief in Wyeth v. Levine, the preemption case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Barker joined the Bush administration in 2001 as a senior health policy counselor for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, where he oversaw relations between the CMS Administrator and major health care providers and trade associations.  He also developed and directed CMS legal and regulatory policy affecting the operation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Mr. Barker began his government career as an aide on Capitol Hill, working for prominent Massachusetts Congressmen on both sides of the aisle. He served for five years as legislative director for Democratic Congressman Brian Donnelly representing Rep. Donnelly on the Ways and Means Committee, where he was responsible for handling work on federal health and income tax policy. Mr. Barker came to the Hill in 1981, serving for six years as legislative assistant and director for Mass. Congressman Silvio Conte, then the ranking Republican member of the House Committee on Appropriations.

“Foley Hoag has cemented its reputation in the last several years as a leader in health care policy and legislative strategy, in Washington and in Boston,” Mr. Barker said. “The firm was easily the best fit for my background and policy expertise.  Foley Hoag also has a highly diverse client base, representing the entire spectrum of the health care industry, including major names in the life sciences, venture capital, insurance and biopharma sectors.  I am looking forward to helping the firm serve its existing clients, as well as to grow its overall health care platform, including bringing more services to payers and purchasers.”

Mr. Barker noted several key health care initiatives pushing their way to the forefront of legislative debate. “The Obama administration has already signaled that health care issues are going to play an outsized role in its domestic agenda, partially because of the allocation of resources in the stimulus package and more broadly, because of the President’s interest in health care reform,” he said.

“There is movement on the critical issue of expanding health-based information technology, particularly digitization of personal health records,” he added.  “Although it’s uncertain just how the stimulus bill will advance this effort, there is no question that health care IT will continue to expand, something we actively pushed for at HHS.” 

Another top-line issue, he noted, is comparative effectiveness research, to help policy makers determine which types of public health treatments are most effective.

Mr. Barker has been an adjunct professor at the Suffolk University School of Law, assisting in development of the school’s health and biomedical law concentration, and also at George Washington University Medical Center’s School of Public Health and Health Services.

Mr. Barker received his J.D. from Suffolk University School of Law in 1998, and his B.A. from Jacksonville University in 1981.

Foley Hoag’s Government Strategies practice is active on both the state and federal levels. Lawyers in the practice, located in Boston and Washington, work with clients in regulated industries to achieve mutually beneficial solutions to public policy issues. Foley Hoag’s Government Strategies lawyers have worked in senior-level positions within presidential administrations, on Capitol Hill, in regulatory agencies, and in industry trade associations. The firm’s Life Sciences practice provides a full range of services including Patent Litigation, Prosecution and Strategy; Corporate Finance and Securities; Mergers, Acquisitions and Strategic Alliances; FDA and Reimbursement; Government Strategies; Venture Capital and Emerging Companies, and Product Liability and Complex Tort.

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