News

Brentwood Based Healthcare Company to Assume Control of Bankrupt Hospital Group

Brentwood-based RCCH Healthcare Partners could take control of recently bankrupt Trios Health facilities in less than a month, reports the Tri-City Herald. The transfer is part of a bankruptcy plan that earmarks $3.95 million for unsecured creditors, with RCCH contributing most of the money. RCCH pledged to employ all Trios employees, saving an estimated 1,000 jobs. You can view the order here.

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Nursing Home Chain Settles in Columbia Medicare Fraud Case

Two former occupational therapists at a Columbia nursing home were whistleblowers in a Medicare fraud case that was settled this month for $30 million, The Columbia Daily Herald reports. Kristi Emerson and LeeAnn Holt tipped-off the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, providing documentation that showed the company pressured employees to perform unneeded therapy and manipulated therapist schedules to maximize profit. You can view the complaint here.

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TBA Legislative Update

The TBA has updated its website with a Legislative Update from the 110th General Assembly, highlighting TBA initiatives and legislation important to Tennessee lawyers. A list of all laws that go into effect July 1 can be found here.
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Federal Judge Won’t Dismiss Suit Against Sevier County Sheriff

U.S. District Judge Pamela Reeves has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Sevier County Sheriff Ron “Hoss” Seals, filed on behalf of an inmate who died in March 2014 from a mix of alcohol and opiates, Knoxnews reports. Seals hired the firm of Dr. Robert Maughon, who has since pleaded guilty to federal healthcare fraud charges, to handle the medical care of inmates in the county’s jail in order to cut costs. Seals also made the decision to rely primarily on licensed practical nurses instead of more highly trained medical professionals to save money.
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Watch Jason Pannu’s Presidential Address Online

Nashville lawyer Jason Pannu took the oath of office as President of the Tennessee Bar Association on Friday in Memphis. For those who missed his inaugural address, you can now stream a high-quality version online at YouTube. Hear about his new programs and his theme for the year, which is “Honoring Tradition, Embracing Modernity.”
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DOJ to Stop Defending Law That Requires Coverage of Pre-existing Conditions

The U.S. Justice Department will stop defending provisions of the Affordable Care Act that bans insurers from refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions and from charging them more for coverage, the ABA Journal reports. The filing from the Justice Department came in a Texas federal court, where Texas and 19 other states have challenged the 2010 healthcare law.

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Tennessee AG Seeks to Make Public State’s Complaint Against Purdue Pharma

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III is seeking to make public the state of Tennessee’s complaint filed against Purdue Pharma on May 15 in Knox County Circuit Court. Under a court order, Purdue had 10 days from the date the company was served with the lawsuit to ask the court to keep the complaint under seal. Purdue has now asked the court to redact most of the state’s complaint. After a hearing date is set, the state will respond to Purdue’s motion and request the complaint be made public and not redacted.
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TSC Holds Plaintiff in Health Care Liability Case Can't Add New Defendant Without Pre-Suit Notice

The Tennessee Supreme Court has unanimously held that after the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations, a plaintiff cannot amend her health care liability suit to substitute a health care provider to which the plaintiff had not given pre-suit notice as required by state law. The Tennessee Health Care Liability Act requires a plaintiff with a potential health care liability claim to give pre-suit written notice at least 60 days before filing a lawsuit to each health care provider that will be named as a defendant. When a plaintiff complies with the pre-suit notice requirement, the one-year statute of limitations for the filing of claims is extended by 120 days. A court can dismiss a lawsuit if the plaintiff fails to give pre-suit notice to a health care provider before filing suit. Pre-suit notice to a defendant encourages the investigation, negotiation, and possible settlement of a health care liability case before the plaintiff files suit.

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A Wellness Tip from the Attorney Well-Being Committee

Rather than checking on every e-mail as it arrives, schedule time in your calendar for reading and managing e-mail (and leave e-mail notifications silent during the other times of the day).  This will enable you to have focused time for given tasks without constant interruption and distraction.
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Trump Administration Unveils Medicaid Scorecard

The Trump Administration on Monday unveiled its initial version of a “scorecard” that compiles and publicizes data from states for both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), The Washington Post reports. The scorecard will make public government measures of performance such as how long both state and federal health officials take when states request “waivers” to deviate from Medicaid’s ordinary rules and detailed, state-by-state averages on specific demographics and procedures/benefits utilized. The scorecard’s initial information is based on states that voluntarily report a series of measures about the health of their Medicaid and CHIP enrollees. You can view more information on the scorecard here

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June Issue Features Ramsaur, Advertising and Fiction Contest Winners

In the June issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal, tribute is paid to the long career of the Tennessee Bar Association's Executive Director Emeritus Allan F. Ramsaur. He steps down after 20 years with the TBA, leaving an impressive legacy, especially with his work in the legislature. Also, read the top two entries in our 2nd Annual Fiction Contest, and get the answers to every question advertising lawyers are asked. TBA President Lucian Pera writes the last installment of his column, reflecting on successes as well as efforts the TBA will continue. Read the Journal online.

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Tennessee Companies Seek to Join Lawsuit Over Affordable Care Act

Two Tennessee companies have asked to join a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Nashville Post reports. W.G. Hall, a staffing firm from Knoxville, and Quickway Distribution Services, a transportation company from Nashville, filed a motion to intervene in the case, which is already underway in a Texas federal court. The suit argues that the clause of the ACA requiring companies with 50 or more full-time employees to provide qualified health insurance plans has irreparably harmed them.
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Several States to Issue Waivers on Work Requirements for Medicaid Recipients

As more states impose mandatory work requirements on their Medicaid programs, some have come under fire for policies that would protect many rural residents from the impact of the new rules, Business Insider reports. In Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio, the waiver proposals would exempt the counties with the highest unemployment rates, which critics argue skew towards white, GOP-leaning residents. Some health law experts say the waivers — already approved for Kentucky, pending for Ohio, and advancing in Michigan — may violate Title 6 of Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race-based discrimination in federal assistance programs. The waiver in Kentucky, the first state to approve the work requirements, will exempt eight counties where the percentage of white residents is over 90 percent. Tennessee's work requirement bill for TennCare recipients, HB1551/SB1728, was signed into law on May 3.

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White House, EPA Delay Results of Chemical Pollution Study

The EPA and White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a "public relations nightmare," Politico reports. The intervention early this year when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's (HHS) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that have contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.

The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to emails obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists through the Freedom of Information Act. The draft study remains unpublished, and HHS says it has no scheduled date to release it for public comment. The chemicals at issue in the HHS study, perfluorooctanoic and perfluorooctanesulfonic acids, have been linked with thyroid defects, problems in pregnancy and certain cancers, even at low levels of exposure. 

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Investment Trust to Buy HCR ManorCare Real Estate

Welltower Inc, a real estate investment trust, is purchasing the real estate of recently bankrupt nursing home giant HCR ManorCare for $2.7 billion, Reuters reports. Welltower will team up with non-profit hospital operator, ProMedica, which purchased ManorCare’s operations for $1.3 billion, to create a 30-state health care system. The partnership plans to capitalize on the trend of more health care taking place outside of hospitals.

If the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approves the deal, the merger stands to boost the group into the 25 largest U.S. health systems by revenue alongside names like Mayo Clinic, Geisinger and Johns Hopkins. ManorCare, which was the second-largest U.S. nursing home operator, filed for Chapter 11 protection in March, with $7.1 billion of debt, as part of a prearranged deal to transfer ownership to its landlord Quality Care Properties Inc.

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Share Your Thoughts on Proposed Amendments to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 6

The Supreme Court recently requested comment on proposed amendments to TSC Rule 6 that would require new attorneys to complete a Tennessee Law Course within one year of admission to the Tennessee bar. The Tennessee Bar Association has a working group on this issue and will be drafting comments in response to the court's Order for Comment. To ensure this comment best reflects members’ views and positions, the groups is looking for your feedback. Share your thoughts about the proposed amendments through this form by June 8.
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    Gov. Haslam Vetoes Bill on Specialized Cancer Treament

    Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have required insurance coverage of proton therapy, targeted radiation used for cancers of the brain, lung, breast and neck, for state employees, The Tennessean reports. The bill, SB0367/HB0523, was approved in the House with an 82-13 vote and a 29-1 vote in the Senate. In a statement, Haslam said the legislation "circumvents" the established process for determining employee insurance coverage. After the governor's veto, Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville and Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, who sponsored the bill, called for the legislature to reconvene for a special session to override Haslam's action.
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    Haslam Vetoes Experimental Cancer Treatment Bill

    Gov. Bill Haslam has vetoed a bill that would have required state insurance plans to cover an experimental cancer treatment, WPLN reports. The treatment is called proton therapy, and it’s designed to do less damage to the body than average cancer treatment, but providers say it’s too expensive and unproven. The governor said that the mandate “could put patients at risk and expose them to excessive charges from out-of-network providers.”
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    Deadline for Completing TBA Survey is Near

    If you have not yet responded to the TBA membership survey please do so before the deadline next week. The results of this survey will help the TBA shape future programming and guide its allocation of resources, so it is important for all members to take a few minutes to complete it. This year's survey also includes a few questions about the evolving legal marketplace and the ways technology and the legal profession are becoming intertwined. The email survey will again be conducted by Yacoubian Research, and individual responses will be anonymous and confidential. For questions or assistance with the survey, contact Assistant Executive Director Barry Kolar.

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    Tennessee AG Won’t Sue Big Pharma

    Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office today backed down from a legal battle with state prosecutors over who has the power to sue major pharmaceutical companies for lying about the addictive nature of prescription painkillers, Knoxnews reports. Fourteen state district attorneys general representing 47 counties in Tennessee filed suit last year against opiate makers and distributors. The group of DAs today also announced that they wouldn’t try to legally commit the state to their suit.
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    U.S. Says Bankrupt Tennessee Nursing Home Chain Must Transfer Liability

    The U.S. government has objected to a plan by Orianna Health Systems nursing home chain to protect companies that would acquire facilities through its restructuring from successor liability, Reuters reports. Filed on April 9, the motion contends that the ultimate control over the legal issues surrounding the transfer of Medicare provider agreements, not a bankruptcy court — and that Orianna cannot expect a new operator to assume control over the properties without also dealing with its existing liabilities. The Nashville based company, which operates skilled nursing facilities in seven states, with around 4,500 beds and 5,000 employees, initially revealed its bankruptcy plan last month after falling behind on rent payments to landlord Omega Healthcare Investors. 
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    Next Week: Topgolf CLE — Estate Planning Tee-off

    The TBA Estate Planning & Probate Section will host the Topgolf CLE: Estate Planning Tee-off on June 26. The program will feature 2.5 hours of CLE programming, focused on information relevant to new attorneys interested in Estate Planning and lawyers who desire to add this area to their practice.
     
    The CLE package includes breakfast, lunch, plus two hours of Topgolf after the presentations. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to build your practice knowledge and fine-tune your drive game, all in one day! 
     
    When: Tuesday, June 26, 9 a.m., CDT
    Where: Topgolf Nashville, 500 Cowan Street, Nashville, TN, 37207
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    Lawsuit Against Wellmont Health Systems Granted Class-Action Status

    A lawsuit filed against Wellmont Health Systems two years ago in Sullivan County has been granted class-action status, the Kingsport Times-News reports. The suit was filed by Highland Physicians (HPI) and claims Wellmont tried for years to undermine or destroy HPI, an independent practice association whose members mostly reside in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. It was first granted class action status in July 2017 by Sullivan County Chancellor E.G. Moody, but Wellmont appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals and the Tennessee Supreme Court, both times unsuccessfully.
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    New Iowa Law Allows Controversial Health Plans

    Last week, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) signed into law a bill that allows Iowa Farm Bureau to collaborate with the state’s dominant insurer to sell “health benefit plans,” a strategy that contends that not all health plans are health insurance, reports The Washington Post. The law says such plans “sponsored by a nonprofit agricultural organization… shall be deemed not to be insurance” meaning they will not have to comply with federal requirements. 
     
    The law has sparked debate over whether the strategy is a creative path to offer some residents an alternative to increasing prices in the insurance marketplace or a path to substandard coverage that will divide the healthy from the sick. Some feel that this bill is an aftereffect of Congress and the Trump administration’s declaration that Americans who flout the law’s individual insurance mandate will no longer be charged penalties. “If the ACA’s insurance rules can’t be repealed, then an alternative is to get people the option of escaping them,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on major health care issues facing the nation. “Without the penalty, the door is wide open for plans like this.”
     
    Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said that he is officially undecided about the new Farm Bureau law but that he sympathizes with the need for more-affordable coverage. As consumers have been “hammered” by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rates, he said, enrollment in Iowa’s marketplace has tumbled from nearly 75,000 in 2016 to about 61,000 last fall to 46,000 last month. According to Ommen, the Farm Bureau modeled its idea after a similar arrangement sponsored by the Tennessee Farm Bureau, which began decades ago and has continued in the ACA era. The Obama administration never challenged it.
     
    The Farm Bureau plan is the state’s second attempt to circumvent the ACA. Last year, the state’s insurance commissioner asked federal health officials to allow Iowa to take about $350 million in ACA money for 2018 and use it in different ways to help people pay for plans outside the marketplace. When the government had not given approval as last fall’s ACA enrollment season neared, Iowa withdrew the proposal.
     
    In a bill-signing ceremony, the governor contended that Iowa’s individual insurance market had ample choices and “reasonable” premiums before the ACA left it “in collapse.” After urging Congress to “fix this problem,” Reynolds recounted Monday, she said “we are done waiting” and urged state lawmakers to find their own solution. “That is exactly what they did.”
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    Medical Cannabis Dead in Legislature for the Year

    The sponsor of a bill that would have allowed certain individuals with serious illness to obtain cannabis legally in Tennessee pulled his legislation today, WJHL reports. Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, said that he worried that passing the bill as it was amended would only forestall the full legislation of medical marijuana in Tennessee, and promised to return next year with a more permissive bill.
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