Morgan Goulet joined Husch Blackwell’s Providence office as senior counsel in November. He comes to the national law firm after serving as senior legal counsel at the R.I. Department of Health.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Goulet was integral in drafting emergency regulations and executive orders, including the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. He was also a member of the COVID-19 task force established by former Gov. Gina M. Raimondo.
Before joining RIDOH, Goulet spent time as associate general counsel at a health system in New England, and as a fraud investigator with one of the largest health care companies in the country.
PBN: What prompted you to make the move from the R.I. Department of Health to Husch Blackwell?
GOULET: Prior to joining Husch Blackwell, I had been senior legal counsel at the Rhode Island Department of Health. RIDOH attorneys, as in many, if not most or all, state agencies, wear many hats, advising numerous, diverse internal clients. Before the pandemic, my primary responsibilities were as counsel to the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, the Center for Health Facilities Regulation, and the Office of Health Regulation. Those pre-pandemic roles put me in position to be heavily involved in drafting, implementing, enforcing and amending the many emergency regulations necessitated by the ongoing but ever-changing state of emergency, working closely with RIDOH leadership, sister agencies and the Office of the Governor.
It was incredibly rewarding work, but during this time I had for many reasons reached the conclusion that my future lay in private practice. Coincidentally, I learned that Husch Blackwell, which I knew to have an excellent reputation nationally in health care law, was entering the Providence and Boston area, bringing an extraordinarily deep bench to the local legal market. I had worked with Jeffrey Chase-Lubitz, whose firm was joining Husch Blackwell, on some matters in the past, and I resolved to reach out to him. Jeff beat me to it, however, and asked whether I might be interested in joining. After listening to what he had to say, I was sold.
PBN: How do you expect that your years at RIDOH and at other health care organizations will serve you in private practice?
GOULET: At RIDOH, I observed that many of the disputes that occur between the regulator and the regulated arise from mutual lack of understanding. RIDOH’s rationale for its regulations, for example, may not be clear to its licensees, and what a licensee wishes to achieve may not be clear to RIDOH. The lack of understanding can result in unnecessary and costly regulatory and legal action. I envision working to bridge the gap between RIDOH and our clients to start the regulatory relationship on the right foot.
Further, my experience at RIDOH, and Care New England [Health System] previously, has resulted in fostering strong relationships inside and outside state government. Those relationships have already facilitated communication with state agencies, not just RIDOH, on behalf of our clients.
Plus, the pandemic being an enduring issue, my RIDOH experience remains valuable to clients looking, for example, to navigate facility and professional vaccine requirements and even newer regulatory requirements, such as the recent emergency regulations relative to visitation at long-term care facilities.
PBN: What sorts of clients are you working with now?
GOULET: In the month-plus since joining Husch Blackwell, I have worked with a variety of clients, including hospitals, licensed health care and behavioral health care facilities, and physician and other provider practices, on a range of issues, including applications for initial license, certificate of need, practice acquisitions, HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996] and general contracting issues.
PBN: How does the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting need for multiple legal requirements and regulations rate among the health care issues you’ve dealt with throughout your career?
GOULET: The pandemic, now in its fifth wave, has been a moving target, impossible to pin down, requiring implementation and enforcement of mitigation strategies, such as masking and physical distancing, that have had to be endlessly revisited and revised to ensure that they are always justified and no more restrictive than necessary.
Thankfully, it has been over a century since the world has experienced a pandemic of this proportion, but that means that the processes for handling an unthinkably long and constantly evolving state of emergency did not exist. And, the world has changed a bit in the last hundred years. Without question, working as counsel for RIDOH, helping to keep the citizens of Rhode Island as safe as possible during these challenging times, was the greatest challenge of my career, but it was also the most rewarding.
PBN: Are you finding that COVID-19 is at the root of many of the issues your clients are coming to you with now?
GOULET: COVID-19 has not been the root of the issues clients bring to me at Husch Blackwell. Working with Jeff, our business plan has been to leverage my broad health care experience – not just those skills born of the pandemic – to best serve a broad range of clients. My COVID-19-related experience is just one facet of the skill set I offer our clients. On the other hand, I am sure that my overall experience as counsel for RIDOH will help inform many projects I undertake at Husch Blackwell.
Elizabeth Graham is a PBN contributing writer.