Susan Whittaker Hughes

Partner

Cleveland
T +1.216.861.7841
F +1.216.696.0740

Overview

Susan Whittaker Hughes focuses her practice on providing exceptional legal services to employee benefit providers and administrators, with a particular emphasis on providing legal services to large employers with comprehensive benefit offerings. Her practice focuses on health and welfare benefit plan design and compliance. She has extensive knowledge of and experience with health data privacy issues and healthcare delivery strategies. In addition, Susan has experience with qualified plans and executive compensation issues, so she is equipped to field and provide advice and counsel on the full spectrum of employee benefit matters.

Susan builds strong client relationships, and always seeks to develop a thorough understanding of her clients’ individualized needs. She works to find practical — and, where necessary, creative — solutions to navigate statutory and regulatory restrictions to achieve client goals.

Select Experience

  • Assists clients with cutting-edge health and welfare benefit plan designs, including through the use of specialized networks, disease management techniques and wellness incentive programs.
  • Negotiates health data use and sharing agreements to assist clients in achieving optimized employee health and plan financial outcomes.
  • Regularly provides employee benefit and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) expertise for the merger and acquisition activities of public and private companies, including due diligence reviews, review and negotiation of purchase agreements, and counseling clients through integration activities.
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Experience

  • Assists clients with cutting-edge health and welfare benefit plan designs, including through the use of specialized networks, disease management techniques and wellness incentive programs.
  • Negotiates health data use and sharing agreements to assist clients in achieving optimized employee health and plan financial outcomes.
  • Regularly provides employee benefit and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) expertise for the merger and acquisition activities of public and private companies, including due diligence reviews, review and negotiation of purchase agreements, and counseling clients through integration activities.
  • Counseled a client through a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security audit by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Guided the client through the audit process, including the establishment of a comprehensive HIPAA compliance scheme within a very aggressive time frame. Drafted all the documentation the client needed to demonstrate that it was, and would continue to be, in compliance with HIPAA Privacy and Security regulations. Remained mindful of the client's business operations and ensured that compliance documentation reflected HIPAA compliance within the client's actual operations.
  • Counsels clients through all phases of Affordable Care Act compliance, including the assessment and revision of plan structures and documentation to achieve market reform, employer shared responsibility and tax reporting compliance.
  • Advises large employers in the development and design of multi-faceted disability leave programs that are ERISA-compliant and complementary to state-required leave programs.
  • Counseled several clients through HIPAA-protected health information breach responses, including conducting fact-specific analyses of whether a HIPAA breach had occurred, identifying the appropriate remediation activities for a breach and drafting notices to affected individuals and regulators.
  • Assisted a client with preparing the application for and navigating the Department of Labor's Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program to successfully obtain a "no action" letter.
  • Assisted a client with the complete redesign of its employee benefit plans to accommodate a complex business reorganization. The reorganization brought many different and new classifications of employees into one benefit structure. The redesign of the benefit plan structure was completed while ensuring Internal Revenue Code and Affordable Care Act compliance.
  • Regularly negotiates significant third-party administrator and vendor service agreements on behalf of benefit plan sponsors to ensure statutory and regulatory compliance and to achieve effective and efficient benefit plan operations.

Recognitions and Memberships

Recognitions

  • Cleveland YWCA Woman of Professional Excellence Award (2018)

Memberships

  • Worldwide Employee Benefits (WEB) Network, Cleveland Chapter: Steering Committee Member
  • American Bar Association
  • Ohio State Bar Association
  • Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association

Community

  • Normandy Elementary PTA: Membership Co-Chair, Room Parent
  • St. Raphael Church (Bay Village, Ohio): Preschool Religion Teacher
  • Greater Cleveland Partnership LEAD Program, Charter Class

Industries

Admissions

  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio
  • Ohio

Education

  • J.D., Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, 2008; Salutatorian; summa cum laude; Business Editor, Cleveland State Law Review
  • M.A., Political Science, Ohio University, 2003, summa cum laude
  • B.A., Political Science, Ohio University, 2002, Honors Tutorial College, summa cum laude