Making Space for Passion in Healthcare Law

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By Karla Amador

Clifford Barnes is the Co-chair of the Health Plan Compliance Group and a Member of the Firm in the Healthcare Practice at Epstein Becker & Green (EBG). Barnes has been with EBG for 35 years.

In his youth, however, Barnes never imagined practicing healthcare law; he thought he would become a mechanic in aviation. What changed the trajectory of his life was his admission into the Upward Bound program in 1965.

Ten years later, Barnes graduated from Cornell University with an MBA in Healthcare Administration and began his professional career as the Executive Assistant for Dr. Lowell Bellin, the Commissioner of Health at the time.

Bellin, as a mentor, encouraged Barnes to further his career in Health Care Law. By 1981, he received his JD degree from the University of Virginia. Afterwards, Barnes continued on to become the first African-American to earn the title of Partner at Epstein Becker & Green.

Now, Barnes works in areas that he calls “passion projects”. For his current project, he’s working with healthcare coalitions, providers, and payors to enable an electronic healthcare record (EHR) exchange across all states; it’s a lengthy process as it requires a patient’s consent, due to confidentiality purposes.

His hope is to expedite EHR exchange because the delays have a negative effect on the patient’s well-being from state to state.

“Physical and mental health of a patient is really important for care coordination,” he said.

Barnes believes that healthcare is a game changer because it’s something that won’t go away and is constantly developing.

“Healthcare in itself is an economic engine because it’s not going anywhere and everyone needs access to health care all the time,” he said.

People also need experienced leaders like Barnes to address crucial areas in healthcare that need a little passion and a new focus.

Quality leadership, for Barnes, “starts with integrity.” Beyond that, he believes leaders should be receptive to what other people say, but not overreactive in times of stress or frustration.

“Leadership is about being an example through [one’s] actions and realizing what [one] says or does is congregate. In other words, I model the behavior other people would want to engage in so that people will see me as an example of who they want to become.”  

Photographed from left to right: Pierre Georges Bonnefil, Clifford E. Barnes

Credit: Jeff Smith