“I think people assume I don’t do much traditional legal work anymore,” said Mary Beth Claus, a graduate of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and now a leading player at IU Health. “That’s certainly not true. In these times of budget constraints, we have to work as a very big team or we will not get done what we need to get done for this system.”
Claus is responsible for all legal and compliance matters for the IU Health system of 20 hospitals and other health care facilities. She directs statewide regulatory, internal audit, corporate compliance and insurance operations departments.
Claus was named one of Indiana’s top 25 female lawyers by Indiana Super Lawyers. Her career included a stint as administrative executive liaison to former Gov. Evan Bayh, advising him during 1992’s Medicaid budget overhaul and the closure of Central State Hospital in 1993. Claus called it “an exciting time.”
At IU Health, she’s been key in guiding the system through implementing the Affordable Care Act. Despite the headaches, she’s optimistic about the ultimate impact.
“The Affordable Care Act is the first attempt to successfully deal with some hard decisions that we have to deal with as a country,” she said. ”And we are already seeing benefits. More and more people actually have coverage. In 10 years, it’s going to be monumental.”
Claus relishes IU’s role as one of the largest academic health centers in the country. “The research and education component of what we do makes it a very dynamic place to work. I’ve had the opportunity to refer a dear friend suffering a rare form of blood cancer. I feel very grateful to be able to direct her to the kind of care that has been able to extend her life.”
She credits her experience working for law firms Bingham Summers Welsh & Spilman LLP (now Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP) and Baker & Daniels LLP (now Faegre Baker Daniels LLP) with helping her become a good lawyer. “It’s an intense learning environment, challenging and very rewarding.”
She considers herself fortunate to have a number of strong women mentors, including Martha Hollingsworth, one of the first female partners at Bingham. “As the first female lawyer in my family, I didn’t know anybody.”
Now she pays it forward. Among her proteges: Chad Priest, who went on to help found Indiana Health Advocacy Coalition.
“Time is so rare,” she said, stressing that it’s important to really evaluate what kind of community activities to be involved with. She recently joined the WFYI board because public radio has meant so much to her family for decades. “The radio stays on all weekend long in our house.”
Past boards include Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, Wishard Memorial Foundation, Safe Sitter Inc. and St. Elizabeth Home. She is a past chairwoman of the Indiana Children’s Trust Fund.
In her spare time, she likes to run.
“No particular place,” she said. “Just forward.”•
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