News

Disability Group Seeks Attorney in Chattanooga

The Florida-based Disability Help Group is seeking an associate attorney to serve the greater Chattanooga area. Responsibilities include helping individuals obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and handling all stages of the administrative process. Past experience with SSA cases is not required but successful candidates will need to spend four to six months in Florida for training. Those hired also must be able to work from home. Interested individuals should submit a cover letter, salary request and resume to Matthew Sauerwald. Learn more in this job announcement.

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Insurance Commissioner: Health Exchange ‘Very Near Collapse’

Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak proclaimed the state’s health exchange “very near collapse” yesterday after signing off on significant premium hikes in a bid to keep the platform viable. The rate approvals were necessary to ensure healthcare options in every part of Tennessee, McPeak said. Tennessee is seeing a steady decrease in the number of insurance companies selling plans on the federally run exchange, the Tennessean reports. In 2017, 57 of the state’s 95 counties will have only one insurance company serving their area.

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Judge Plans 10th Judicial District Mental Health Court

Circuit Court Judge Andrew Freiberg has announced plans to create a new mental health court in the 10th Judicial District, the Cleveland Banner reports. Freiberg said the move recognizes the need to rehabilitate individuals through appropriate mental health treatment as well as the limitations of the traditional criminal justice system in dealing with repeat non-violent offenders with mental health issues. The court, set to launch in January, will serve every county in the district, including Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk.

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Legal Aid Gets $15,000 Grant for Food Stamp Advocacy

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has received a $15,000 grant to support the anti-hunger efforts of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. This is the third year the agency has received money from the national nonprofit working to end hunger in the United States and Israel. Funds will be used to advocate for clients receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Russell Overby and Emma Sholl in the Nashville office and Theresa-Vay Smith in the Oak Ridge office will focus on this work.

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New Rules Prohibit Discrimination in Health Care Services

A new set of federal regulations under the Affordable Care Act makes it illegal for health care providers to discriminate on the basis of disability, race or sex, which includes gender identity, sex stereotypes, termination of pregnancy and sex-related medical conditions. Providers must set up a grievance procedure for complaints and post information about the rules on their websites. Though the regulations were released earlier this summer, they have not received much attention, one legal analyst says in this Tennessean article.

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Nashville Lawyer Named 2016 Emerging Leader

Nashville lawyer Gabe Roberts with the Bureau of TennCare has been named the 2016 Nashville Emerging Leader in the legal services category. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and YP Nashville announced the winners in a variety of categories this week, the Tennessean reports. Roberts serves on the TBA Health Law Section’s Executive Council. He also serves on the board of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and is treasurer of the Phoenix Club of Nashville.

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Health Law Expert Joins UT Law Faculty

The University of Tennessee College of Law has welcomed Zack Buck to its faculty as an assistant professor specializing in health law. Buck joins the school after spending three years as an assistant professor at the Mercer University School of Law in Georgia, a visiting professor at two other law schools and a litigator at Sidley Austin. His past work includes examining governmental enforcement of laws and rules affecting health, how the enforcement of healthcare fraud and abuse laws impacts quality of care, and the legal regulation of over-treatment.

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AG Announces Settlement with Anti-Competitive Pharma Business

Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced today that Tennessee, 48 other states and the District of Columbia have reached an agreement with Cephalon Inc. and affiliated companies, now a part of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, following alleged anti-competitive conduct. The $125 million settlement concludes an investigation into a scheme by Cephalon to block generic competition to its sleep-disorder drug, Provigil. Cephalon prevented competition by filing patent infringement lawsuits against potential competitors, and then paid those competitors to delay the sale of their generic versions of the drug. In total, the states will receive $35 million for distribution to consumers who purchased Provigil. Tennessee and its consumers will receive an estimated $3.32 million.

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Suit Alleges TennCare Wrongly Delayed Coverage

A federal lawsuit filed yesterday by the Tennessee Justice Center alleges that TennCare wrongly delayed coverage to a woman in a coma for two months, leaving her family with nearly $900,000 in medical debt. The suit also alleges that the state Medicaid program violated the 34-year-old woman’s right to apply for coverage and denied rights to appeal. The Tennessean reports on the story.

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Lawyers Donate $76,000 to Access to Justice Efforts

More than $76,000 has been donated by Tennessee attorneys to organizations that serve low-income individuals in need of legal assistance, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports. The donations come as part of the annual licensing registration process. Starting in 2015, attorneys were given the option to donate to an Access to Justice Fund when renewing their licenses. Organizations receiving funds this year are the Community Legal Center, Disability Rights Tennessee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Legal Aid Society, Memphis Area Legal Services, Southeast Tennessee Legal Services, Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, Tennessee Justice Center, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors, Volunteer Lawyers and Professionals for the Arts, and West Tennessee Legal Services.

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Shelby Mental Health Court Seeks to Grow

In January, Shelby County launched a new mental health court as a way to handle individuals with mental illnesses who chronically end up in jail. In just a few months, the court has reached capacity and is asking the state for additional funding, the Commercial Appeal reports. The court is seeking $78,000 to pay a full-time case worker so it can double the number of people served to 50 participants. The program requires defendants to plead guilty to their crimes but arrests are expunged if they finish the year-long program. Participants are given mental and physical health care, help with alcohol and drug abuse, housing assistance and employment assistance.

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New TBJ Looks at Clemency, Medical Battery

Nashville lawyer Ben Raybin researched recent clemency statistics in Tennessee and found some interesting trends. Read his article, “How Executive Clemency Works (and How It Doesn’t)” in the August Tennessee Bar Journal. Also in this issue, Hendersonville lawyer Clint Kelly details the rise of medical battery and informed consent and Tennessee Bar Association President Jason Long explains how meeting up with fellow lawyers helps with overall civil discourse and civility in the profession. Read the August TBJ.

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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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