News

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 »

Judge Approves TennCare Class, Injunction

U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell of Nashville today granted class-action status for would-be TennCare enrollees who allege that state officials delayed processing their applications for months despite requirements of the federal health care law, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Campbell also granted an injunction requested by the plaintiffs to force the state to follow the 45-day limit on processing applications so that people can get signed up more quickly for health coverage. A hearing on Friday, which included three hours of sometimes heated arguments set the stage for the ruling, the Tennessean reports.

read more »

U.S. Attorney: TennCare has ‘Ultimate Responsibility’ for Medicaid Applications

The U.S. Attorney’s office is rejecting assertions by TennCare that the federal government is to blame for a bungled Medicaid application process in Tennessee that has spawned a lawsuit, stating the burden lies with the state. The filing came just before oral arguments began this afternoon in front of U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell. Lawyers for the Tennessee Justice Center and two other nonprofits are asking the judge to force TennCare to set up a work-around until a behind-schedule $35.7 million computer system becomes operational. They are also asking the judge to grant the case class-action status, which would open the case up to other plaintiffs. TennCare is asking that the case be dismissed. The Tennessean has more.

read more »

Haslam: Medicaid Expansion Proposal Going to Feds Soon

A long-expected plan for a Medicaid expansion in Tennessee could be placed before federal officials this fall, Gov. Bill Haslam said yesterday. If the feds approve, an estimated 180,000 low-income state residents could be eligible for subsidized health insurance. It's the first significant development in months over Tennessee's ongoing struggle to expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The announcement drew criticisim from Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who issued a statement claiming Haslam has not conferred with the General Assembly regarding an expansion plan. State lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill to require the governor to obtain legislative approval before he can expand Medicaid under the health care law.

read more »

Bass Berry Opens Pharma Practice

The Memphis office of Bass, Berry & Sims has opened a specialty pharmacy, pharma services and distribution practice. Michael R. Hess, the former chief counsel and vice president of strategic development at Accredo Health Group, will chair the endeavor. The Memphis Daily News reports that Hess will focus on pharmaceutical trade and distribution, strategic business advice, and transactional and regulatory guidance. The group also will include attorney Shannon L. Wiley.

read more »

Federal Hearing Looms for TennCare Lawsuit

While a group of civil rights attorneys demands that TennCare officials turn over a series of documents related to delays to its enrollment process, TennCare attorneys yesterday called the motion an “11th-hour” attempt to gather information as a federal hearing looms, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (subscription required). During an Aug. 29 emergency hearing in Nashville, U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell will determine whether the lawsuit against the Medicaid agency will take on class-action status, and whether the 11 plaintiffs, and potentially hundreds of other Tennesseans, will get access to coverage while the lawsuit is argued — a process that could take months, the newspaper states.

read more »

Domestic Partnership Ordinance Loses in Public Vote

Chattanooga voters yesterday defeated the Domestic Partnership Ordinance. The measure, which would have provided health benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees, was approved by the Chattanooga City Council last year but was forced to a public vote. “The City of Chattanooga’s non-discrimination ordinance was repealed tonight, but I want every city employee to know one thing — your work is valued and you are important to the future of our community,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said following the vote. News Channel 9 has the story.

read more »

Advocates Outline Advantages of Mental Health Court in Chattanooga

Advocates held the first in an expected series of public forums about starting a mental health court in Chattanooga Monday, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. G.A. Bennett, director of support services with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, told the gathering that a mental health court would save Hamilton County money, reduce rates of recidivism and show caring accountability toward people with mental illness. Nashville's mental health court reports a reduced recidivism rate, a cost saving of a $250,000 and 83 percent reduction in the number of jail days for people with mental health issues.

read more »

Forum to Look at Mental Health Courts

The public is invited to attend a forum on Criminal Justice and Mental Health “A Mental Health Court for Hamilton County,” next Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga. “A mental health court in Hamilton County will significantly reduce costs and improve public safety by connecting mentally ill defendants with community resources,” Judge Christie Sell said. “The goal is to reduce the likelihood of continued crime by stabilizing these individuals, who cost more than 7 times more to jail and who are subject to worsening mental conditions when incarcerated.” The Chattanoogan has more.

read more »

Court Rulings Split on Health Exchange Subsidies

Two U.S. federal courts came to opposite conclusions today on the legality of health insurance subsidies provided to federally-run exchange plans, the Nashville Post reports. The federal government argued that the ACA established "complete equivalence between state and federal exchanges," while the opposition argued the language clearly denied tax credits to consumers in states with federally-run marketplaces. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled with the opposition, while the Fourth Circuit took the opposite view.

read more »