Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
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Wilson Sonsini (53)


The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (MMA), which went into effect in 2006, expanded Medicare to cover prescription drugs for senior citizens covered under the program. However, many disabled and elderly citizens with low incomes—”dual eligible” beneficiaries, who qualified for both Medicare and Medicaid, the The Am Law Pro Bono 100government health program for the poor—reported difficulties in obtaining this coverage. In April 2006 the National Senior Citizens Law Center and the Center for Medicare Advocacy filed a class action against the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of 75-year-old Xiufang Situ and a class of more than 6 million dual eligible beneficiaries. The suit alleged that the government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services had failed to ensure that low-income Medicare beneficiaries were automatically enrolled in Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program, in breach of the Medicare statute and the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati joined the suit after the class was certified.

The plaintiffs were originally represented by different legal services and public interest advocates around the country. Later, the advocacy organizations asked Wilson Sonsini for help. “We decided to seek private counsel in order to assist with the massive discovery effort that was facing us, to prepare for a possible trial that would have been lengthy and complex, and to provide support for the upcoming settlement negotiations,” says Gill Deford, director of litigation at the Center for Medicare Advocacy. He adds: “By bringing on a major firm with experienced litigators as cocounsel, we were also sending a signal that we had the resources to go as far as was necessary to achieve success.”

The learning curve on Medicaid and Medicare was a steep one, admits Wilson Sonsini special counsel Lisa Davis. But the firm took an active role in the settlement negotiations, and in June 2008 the government agreed to a far-reaching settlement, promising to significantly speed up Medicare Part D enrollment for dual eligible beneficiaries and to conduct an outreach program to pharmacies to ensure that benefits are not denied to those who cannot immediately prove their eligibility. The government and Part D providers must also give additional help to applicants who are seeking to prove their eligibility for benefits.

—Priti Patnaik | July 1, 2009

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