News

State Leaders Participate in National Child Safety Initiative

Tennessee was one of eight states selected to participate in the Three Branch Institute to Improve Child Safety and Prevent Child Fatalities. The Florida event included sessions on identifying and assessing at-risk populations, parental substance abuse and opioid impact on child welfare. Attendees from Tennessee included Amy Coble and Michael Cull; Rep. John DeBerry Jr., D-Memphis; Sen. Ferrell Haile, R- Gallatin; and AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate. The AOC has more.

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Inaugural Veterans Legal Clinic Set for Knoxville

Legal organizations in Knoxville have teamed up to hold a monthly legal advice clinic for veterans, service members and military families. The inaugural two-hour clinic will be held Sept. 7 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, 1101 Liberty St. The clinic then will be held each month on the Wednesday preceding the Pro Bono Project’s Saturday Bar. Partners include the Knoxville Bar Association and its Barristers’ Access to Justice Committee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, the Knox County Public Defender’s Office, University of Tennessee College of Law and the local Veterans’ Affairs office. Contact Spencer Fair for more information or to volunteer.

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Haslam Aide Joins TennCare Bureau

Will Cromer, who has been serving as Gov. Bill Haslam’s policy director and special assistant for strategy, will join the Bureau of TennCare as deputy director and chief of staff on Sept. 6. Haslam announced the move today saying, “Will is incredibly smart and thoughtful, and he has been at the heart of every major policy decision and initiative we’ve launched in our office. I’m excited to see him apply his knowledge and experience in helping manage this $11 billion agency.” Cromer has been with Haslam since 2010. Prior to that he worked for State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), an education initiative founded by Bill Frist.

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ACLU Vows to Challenge Numerous Trump Policies

The ACLU is vowing to file constitutional challenges to several of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s policies if he is elected and tries to implement them. These include Trump’s call for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States, creation of a “deportation force” to round up the undocumented, surveillance or registration of mosques and American Muslims, use of waterboarding, changes to libel laws so media outlets can be sued, bulk collection of metadata, and punishment for doctors who perform abortions. The ABA Journal looks at the ACLU's positions.

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Overbey to Chair Regional Policy Committee

State Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, has been elected chair of the Southern Legislative Conference’s (SLC) Human Services and Public Safety Committee. The election was held during the group’s annual meeting, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said Overbey’s “tremendous knowledge and experience in mental health and human services … will be of great benefit to his fellow legislators and this organization." Overbey has served on both the House and Senate Health committees. He currently is chair of the Senate Ethics Committee and a vice chair of the Judiciary and Finance committees.

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Planned Parenthood to Target Tennessee Abortion Law

Planned Parenthood says it will target abortion laws in eight states, including Tennessee, that may be vulnerable after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down abortion restrictions in Texas. The repeal campaign, announced Thursday, will target laws in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as measures in Texas that were not addressed by the Supreme Court ruling. WKRN News 2 has more.

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Feds Expected to Extend TennCare Talks

State officials expect to get an extension from the federal government to continue negotiations on a range of TennCare issues, the Tennessean reports. State and federal officials are negotiating the future of uncompensated care pools, which help hospitals offset costs, Tennessee’s allotment for disproportionate share hospitals and ways to address the needs of uninsured veterans and those with behavioral health issues.

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New Litigation Courses Now Available Online

Online CLE programs offering insight into a range of litigation matters are now available online. Sessions cover med-mal updates, third party reviews, the ethical use of social media and effective deposition strategies. Check these courses out at the links above.

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Veterans Court Uses PT to Address PTSD

“PT for PTSD” was the motto of the day at All Rise for Exercise, an event created by the Montgomery County Veterans Treatment Court to engage veterans in physical activity. The event featured presentations on the importance of exercise and healthy eating as well as a group warm up session and individual circuit training. The court, led by Judge Kenneth R. Goble Jr., is designed to address the needs of active duty soldiers and veterans involved in the criminal justice system. The Clarksville Leaf Herald has the story.

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Disability Rights Tennessee Wants to Hear From You!

Disability Rights Tennessee has launched a survey aimed at gathering information from people with disabilities, family members, service providers and professionals to help shape the work of the organization.

The organization is looking for as much information as possible, so please feel free to share the survey with partners, colleagues and friends, so that an accurate picture of the needs of those with disabilities in the State of Tennessee can be compiled. Take the survey now. The deadline to respond is July 11.

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Settlement Reached in Life Care Overbilling Suit

The U.S. Department of Justice is apparently close to a settlement with Cleveland-based Life Care Centers of America, the nation’s largest private nursing home company, over charges the company overbilled for the cost of treating patients. According to court papers filed Friday, the parties asked for a 90-day extension because they “have reached a settlement in principle.” According to the Times Free Press, the department brought the case under the federal False Claims Act, alleging that Life Care billed Medicare and TRICARE for “services that were not covered by the skilled nursing facility benefit, that were not medically reasonable and necessary, and that were not skilled in nature.”

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State Lawmakers Meet with Federal Health Officials

A group of Tennessee lawmakers were in Washington, D.C., today to meet with federal regulators as part of an effort to improve access to health care coverage for the uninsured. The group – formally known as the “3-Star Healthy Project” – were to meet with officials from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and present a plan to address the needs of uninsured veterans and those struggling with behavioral health issues, the Tennessean reports. The group includes Reps. Karen Camper, D-Memphis; Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough; Roger Kane, R-Knoxville; Steve McManus, R-Cordova; and Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville; as well as Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville.

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Health Department Names New Legislative Lead

The Tennessee Department of Health has named Jeremy Davis as its new assistant commissioner for legislative affairs, Humphrey on the Hill reports. Davis comes to this new role after serving as a legislative liaison for the department and as a policy assistant for Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris. He succeeds Valerie Nagoshiner, who has been promoted to chief of staff.

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Court Abortion Decision Could Affect Tennessee Law

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its three final opinions for this term this morning. Among the rulings, the court found that Texas laws requiring abortion centers to meet surgical center standards and abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges constitute an undue burden on abortion access and therefore violate the constitution. The court also ruled that a domestic-violence conviction is a misdemeanor crime of violence for purposes of limiting access to firearms. The final decision vacated the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. SCOTUSblog has more on the decisions, while the Tennessean looks at the abortion ruling’s impact on similar laws in Tennessee, which are currently being challenged. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee had agreed to stay the proceedings until the high court ruled.

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DOJ Cracks Down on Insurance Fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged approximately 300 people in 25 states with health insurance fraud in just the last three days, News Channel 5 reports. Those arrested account for more than $900 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare and Medicaid. The billings were the result of services that were deemed medically unnecessary, or for services that were never provided. NBC News reports that one fifth of those arrested were licensed medical professionals, including 30 doctors. Others were involved in home health care fraud and pharmaceutical fraud.

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Judge Slone Receives Public Health Award

Fourth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Duane Slone recently received the Tennessee Public Health Association’s Visionary Award, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts. Tennessee Commissioner of Health Dr. John Dreyzehener presented the award to Slone for his work co-founding the district’s drug court, raising awareness about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome — which affects children born to mothers using opiates during pregnancy — working against legislation that would have imprisoned addicted mothers and establishing transitional housing for pregnant mothers.

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Learn About Urgent Care Trends at July 12 CLE

Urgent Care: Trends, Compliance and Regulatory Issues, a CLE course on July 12 from noon-4:15 p.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center, will address the corporate practice of medicine, staffing issues, compliance matters, permits and licensures. A panel of experts will provide their unique perspectives on how new urgent care health care trends will impact hospitals, physicians and urgent care companies. The course is approved for three CLE credits. 

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Activists File Suit Over State's New Counseling Law

The Tennessean reports that two male gay rights activist filed a lawsuit today in Anderson County Chancery Court challenging the state’s new law that permits counselors to deny service based on their personal principles. The pair, one of whom is an Anderson County resident, claim the new law violates the right to equal treatment guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution. 

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Doctor, Drug Testing Lab Settle False Claims Act Case

The Nashville Post reports Jonathan Oppenheimer, who ran drug testing laboratories OURLab and OPKO Lab, will pay more than $9.3 million to settle False Claims Act allegations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee yesterday said that the Nashville company violated anti-kickback statutes by placing certain conditions on the financial support they were giving physician practices investing in electronic health records systems.

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Health Care Task Force to Present Plan to Federal Authorities

House Speaker Beth Harwell's 3-Star Legislative Task Force is weeks away from showing federal Medicaid officials some of its plan for improving insurance access for Tennesseans. According to WPLN, the group is favoring giving more support to clinics, over offering residents insurance through Medicaid. As many as 300,000 Tennesseans cannot afford insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but still do not qualify for Medicaid.

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Oklahoma Gov. Vetoes Bill That Would Criminalize Abortion

CNN reports Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin today vetoed a bill that would criminalize abortion procedures in the state. "The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered 'necessary to preserve the life of the mother,'" Fallin, a Republican, said.  

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Oklahoma Bill Criminalizes Performing Abortions

Lawmakers in Oklahoma passed a bill today that would make performing abortions a felony, Huffington Post reports. The measure, which contains no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, is now headed to the desk of Oklahoma’s Republican governor. The Associated Press adds that under the measure, those who perform an abortion could be punished with up to three years in prison and would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in the state. 

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Court Rules Health Care Subsidies Unconstitutional

A federal judge today ruled that the administration is unconstitutionally subsidizing medical bills for millions of people while ignoring congressional power over government spending, WSMV reports.  The ruling from U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer was a win for House Republicans who brought the politically charged legal challenge in an effort to undermine Obama-backed health care reforms. At issue is the $175 billion the government is paying to reimburse health insurers over a decade to reduce deductibles and co-payments for lower-income people.

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Health Care Task Force Meets in Memphis

The health care task force, created by House Speaker Beth Harwell in April, held its third meeting yesterday in Memphis. The Commercial Appeal reports task force chairman Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said the group will re-evaluate which parts of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee Plan can be supported by the General Assembly after the full plan failed to win legislative approval. Sexton added the group, dubbed the “3-Star Healthy Project,” could attempt to ease restrictions on faith-based health care organizations. 

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Nursing Home Ejections Raise Legal Questions

The ABA Journal explores the legality of nursing homes ejecting patients who are considered undesirable. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program found eviction and discharge complaints have increased about 57 percent since 2000. The article highlights a California case where the family of an ousted patient appealed to the health department and won, yet the nursing home still refused to readmit the patient. 

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