News

Supreme Court Rules Hospitals Can’t Maintain Liens After Bills Paid in Full

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court has decided that hospitals are required to release their hospital lien against a patient as soon as the patient and the patient’s insurance company have paid the full amount of the hospital charges. In West v.Shelby County Healthcare Corp., three patients who received treatment at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis’ (Med) emergency room filed suit in the Circuit Court for Shelby County challenging the Med’s practice of filing liens against its patients and declining to release these liens after they had been paid. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, but the Court of Appeals reversed. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the Med’s appeal, ruling that neither the laws authorizing hospital liens nor the Med’s contract with health insurance companies permitted the Med to maintain its lien after the patient’s debt to the Med has been fully extinguished with payments from the patient and the patient’s insurance company. The AOC has more.

read more »

Court Vacates Extraordinary Appeal

The Tennessee Supreme Court today ruled that a Hamilton County trial court did not depart from accepted and usual judicial course during a health care liability lawsuit, so an immediate appellate court review was not called for. The Court of Appeals had granted an application for an extraordinary appeal in a case involving a request to waive the Tennessee law that requires expert medical testimony to come from one who practices in Tennessee or a contiguous state. With this ruling, the court remanded the case back to the trial court.

read more »

New Master's in Health Law and Policy Offered

A new online master of science in health law and policy degree will be offered through Samford University's Cumberland School of Law. The first class will be admitted for fall 2015. Professionals in the fields of compliance, human resources, insurance and health care administration will gain a marketable expertise in the increasingly complex world of health law and policy, according to Henry Strickland, Cumberland School of Law dean. The degree also will benefit recent graduates who plan to enter the field of health care compliance or administration, as well as attorneys interested in pursuing specialization in health law or policy, the school reported.

read more »

Opponents Call for More Disclosure on Amendment 1 Votes

Opponents of Amendment 1 are calling on Secretary of State Tre Hargett to release any information used to support his decision to certify the results of the November vote on the amendment. The group had filed a complaint in federal court alleging that the state used a faulty method of counting votes on the amendment and thus violated voters’ rights. In a statement issued today, the group says it was not given notice of the certification and that the state has not provided any information to justify its assertion that the votes were counted in accordance with the state constitution. “Until we have transparency from the Secretary of State we are not going to know how the vote really turned out and whether it complied with the constitution,” said Nashville attorney Bill Harbison, who represents the plaintiffs in the federal suit.

read more »

Haslam Unveils Medicaid Expansion Plans

After 17 months of working on a compromise Medicaid expansion plan, Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a two-year pilot program that will use federal money to create two new options for low-income Tennesseans, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The governor said he intends to call a special session of the General Assembly in January to get approval for the plan. Under Insure Tennessee, workers will be able to obtain vouchers to cover their portion of employer-offered insurance, while others can seek reimbursement from TennCare for out-of-pocket health care costs. Haslam promised the plan would not lead to new taxes or state costs and announced that the Tennessee Hospital Association agreed to cover any costs not covered by federal funding. The plan has received verbal approval from federal officials, Haslam said, but still needs an official waiver.

read more »

New App Helps with Health Care Decisions

A new smartphone app developed by the ABA’s Commission on Law and Aging allows individuals and families to manage and share their health care advance directives and related information. The app, which offers unlimited storage and management of personal and family profiles and documents, is the latest resources released by the commission to help individuals make health care decisions. Other tools include a multi-state health care power of attorney, a consumer’s toolkit for health care advance planning and a guide to making medical decisions for others.

read more »

Haslam to Decide Medicaid Expansion by Christmas

After a TennCare budget hearing Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters that he has been in talks with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and should have a decision on expanding Medicaid coverage by Christmas. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act was optional for states, Haslam has talked with federal officials about customizing it for Tennessee. Haslam must also win approval from a Republican-dominated state legislature to undertake any expansion, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

read more »

AOC Clarifies New Rule Allowing Fixed-Fee Contracts for Indigent Representation

The Administrative Office of the Courts today released a statement clarifying the recent adoption of a new Rule 13, Section 7, allowing flat fee contracts for court-appointed work in the areas of judicial hospitalization, child support contempt and dependency and neglect cases. The office reiterated that the new rule does not require but merely allows fixed fee contracts in these case areas, nor does it require the AOC to award contracts to lowest bidder or engage in bidding at all.

"The goal is not to displace attorneys who currently do the work," the AOC said in its statement. "The goal is to manage the resources given to the indigent fund by the legislature in the most efficient way possible." The AOC indicated that the first area to use the new contract method will be Shelby County in judicial hospitalization cases. Beginning in January 2015, judges may still assign attorneys to these cases, but only those who agree to the new contract system. In the 2013-14 budget year, judicial hospitalizations represented only 4 percent of the Indigent Representation Fund budget.

read more »

State Spends Millions to Save Emails for Lawsuits

Tennessee state agencies are spending millions of dollars on email storage, in many cases because court orders direct them to preserve evidence, Nashville Public Radio reports. The Department of Children’s Services, for example, spends at least $865,000 a year to store email records, while TennCare spends more than $1 million a year to transfer and store emails connected to a number of lawsuits. Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center – which has sued the state on behalf of TennCare patients – defended the costs saying the protection is necessary to ensure state agencies do not destroy potential evidence.

read more »

Legal Aid Names New Medical-Legal Director

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands (LAS) has named Audrey Dorrough Seamon as director of the Middle Tennessee Medical-Legal Partnership. Seamon has worked at LAS since January 2013, primarily representing domestic violence victims in areas of family, juvenile and elder law. In her new job, she will oversee program operations and support partnerships, which include United Neighborhood Health Services (UNHS) and Vanderbilt University’s student-run Shade Tree Clinic. Read more in this release from the group.

read more »

House GOP Sue Over Health Care Law Implementation

House Republicans today filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration over unilateral actions on the health care law that they say are abuses of the president’s executive authority. The suit accuses the administration of unlawfully postponing a requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay penalties. It also challenges the payment of roughly $175 billion to insurance companies for subsides to low income customers. The New York Times has more.

read more »

Woodbury Attorney Pleads Guilty to Theft

Woodbury City Attorney Dale Peterson says he may be set to resign his position after pleading guilty to stealing more than $20,000 from a local psychiatric hospital, the Murfreesboro Post reports. Last week, Peterson entered a plea to theft over $1,000 from Riverside Center, a part of Stones River Hospital. As a representative of the center, Peterson filed documents and paid fees to the Cannon County Clerk’s office. But from March 2012 to July 2014 prosecutors found that he stopped filing documents and pocketed the fees. Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick says he will recommend a new city attorney at the city council meeting on Dec. 5.

read more »

Belmont Law Moot Court Wins National Championship

Belmont University College of Law moot court team recently won the national championship at the National Health Law Moot Court Competition in Carbondale, Illinois. The  team defeated schools from all across the county in six rounds of arguments. The team was comprised of law students Courtney Lutz, Heath Henley and Ben Conrady and was led by College of Law faculty member Amy Moore.

read more »

Court to Hear Health Care Subsidy Case

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to hear a new challenge to President Barack Obama's health care law, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The justices said they will decide whether the law allows subsidies to be given to millions of low- and middle-income people regardless of whether they live in states that set up their own exchanges or are relying on the federal exchange. A federal appeals court upheld IRS regulations that allow subsidies for consumers in all 50 states. Opponents, however, argue the law limits the assistance to those in state-run exchanges.

read more »

Tennessee Gets $5M Grant for Suicide Prevention

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has been awarded two federal grants totaling nearly $5 million dollars to reduce suicide rates, Chattanoogan.com reports. The money will be used to educate mental health providers on how to identify those who are potentially suicidal and to connect those in crisis with services that can get them the help they need. In addition to Tennessee, New York, New Mexico and Oklahoma received funds. For help in Tennessee call the 24/7 REDLINE at (800) 889-9789.

read more »

Miller & Martin Names New Health Care Practice Head

Miller & Martin attorney David Lewis has been named the new head of the firm’s health care practice group, the Nashville Post reports. Lewis joined the Nashville office of Miller & Martin this past May after working as vice president and associate legal counsel at LifePoint Hospitals in Brentwood. In his new position, Lewis will be responsible for the ongoing growth of the group across the firm’s offices in Chattanooga, Atlanta and Nashville. Lewis is the past chair of the TBA’s Health Law Section and currently serves as vice chair of the Physician Organizations Practice Group of the American Health Lawyers Association.

read more »

Court Weighs Whether to Hear Health Care Subsidy Case

Supreme Court justices will consider this week whether they have the appetite for another major fight over President Barack Obama’s health care law, the Associated Press reports. Some of the same players who mounted a failed effort to kill the law outright now want the justices to rule that financial subsidies under the law are illegal. The group is challenging a federal appeals court ruling that IRS regulations allow subsidies in all 50 states. They argue that financial aid can be provided only in states that have set up their own insurance markets, not in states where the federal government runs the exchanges. The justices will decide whether to hear the case at their private conference Friday. The Memphis Daily News has more.

read more »

TJC Hosts Free Training on TennCare Hearings

The Tennessee Justice Center is hosting free trainings for attorneys on how to represent Tennesseans waiting more than 45 days to get TennCare and how to navigate the hearing process. The first session will take place in Memphis tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. A second session will be held Nov. 5 at the Tennessee Justice Center in Nashville at 11:30 a.m. For more information, contact Emily Jones at ejones@tnjustice.org.

read more »

Health Law Lawyers Gather at Annual Forum, Primer

Close to 400 health care lawyers from across Tennessee and the Southeast gathered at the TBA's Annual Health Law Primer and Forum this week in Cool Springs. Produced by the TBA Health Law Section's Chair Christie Burbank of Miller & Martin PLLC, the Forum is now in its 26th year. The Primer, produced by Chair-elect Jesse Neil of Community Health Systems Professional Services Corp., is in its 14th year. Photos by Jenny Jones.

read more »

Haslam Stands by TennCare Director

Gov. Bill Haslam praised TennCare Director Darin Gordon earlier this week for saving tax dollars, despite a federal notice that the program's backlog of applications violates U.S. law and a lawsuit accusing the agency of creating barriers for people seeking coverage. "I guarantee you," Haslam told the Tennessean, "every other state in the country would love to have him as their Medicaid director." The lawsuit centers on TennCare's decision to stop providing direct assistance to people seeking coverage and require them to apply through Healthcare.gov, the website for the federal insurance exchange. 

read more »

State to Appeal TennCare Hearing Ruling

Attorneys for the state of Tennessee filed notice on Friday that they would appeal a federal district judge’s ruling that TennCare must provide applicants with a fair hearing even if applications cannot be processed on time. Under federal law, states that participate in the Medicaid program generally are required to determine eligibility within 45 days. If the state cannot meet that deadline, applicants are still entitled to a hearing. TennCare applicants filed suit earlier this year complaining that their applications have been pending for months while the state refuses to hold hearings. WDEF News 12 reports.

read more »

Group Granted Class Action Status in HCA Lawsuit

Plaintiffs who filed a securities fraud case against HCA Holdings Inc., the Nashville-based hospital giant, on Monday were granted class-action status in a suit stemming from the company’s $4.3 billion initial public offering in 2011, the Tennessean reports. The claim, brought by New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension Fund as lead plaintiff, alleges HCA failed to disclose the company was experiencing a decline in Medicare and Medicaid revenues and had improperly accounted for previous reorganizations in a “false and misleading” initial public offering registration statement. The list of defendants includes HCA’s top executives as well as several high-profile investment banks and a private equity group.

read more »

Steen Launches Medical-Legal Partnerships Initiative

TBA President Jonathan Steen launched plans for developing Medical-Legal Partnerships – a key 2014 TBA initiative – during an Equal Justice University (EJU) luncheon yesterday in Murfreesboro. The Partnerships will engage professionals from both fields to create more comprehensive and responsive healthcare teams. To help support their development, the TBA has formed a Medical Legal Partnership Working Group. Nearly 250 lawyers, law students and other advocates were at the annual conference for Tennessee’s Access to Justice community, which is hosted by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) and co-sponsored by the TBA. Along with Steen's address, the event featured the presentation of the annual Access to Justice Awards, continuing education and opportunities for networking through task force meetings and social functions. Other speakers at the 2014 EJU included retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder, civil rights leader Diane Nash and former TBA President Buck Lewis, who received the inaugural award named in Justice Holder’s honor. See photos and learn more about the event.

read more »

Legal Aid to Help with Delayed TennCare Applications

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands will provide free legal assistance to TennCare applicants whose applications have been inordinately delayed. The announcement comes on the heels of a Sept. 2 preliminary injunction ordered by U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell requiring TennCare to provide a hearing for any individual who has proof they applied more than 45 days ago — or 90 days ago for disability cases — and has not yet received a decision. The injunction came in response to Wilson v. Gordon, the first challenge of a state’s refusal to implement the Affordable Care Act.

read more »

Medical-Legal Partnerships, Copyright and More in New TBJ

TBA President Jonathan Steen explains medical-legal partnerships in his September Tennessee Bar Journal column and his hopes for fostering more MLPs in the state. Technology versus the Copyright Act is covered by Nashville lawyer Tim Warnock, while columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Benjamin Russ write about forced marriage.

read more »