News

Insure Tennessee Fails Again

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted 2-6-1 today against a resolution to allow Gov. Bill Haslam to implement "Insure Tennessee" -- his plan to provide low-income Tennesseans with federally subsidized healthcare. Although the House version of the plan is still alive, the likelihood of Insure Tennessee becoming law this year is very low, the Tennessean reports. The bill considered today differed significantly from the version defeated during a special session earlier this year. The new plan required that Haslam wait to implement the program until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the legality of subsidies and federal officials grant approval for Tennessee to end the program at any time.

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Healthcare Liability, Workers' Comp Bills See Action

The Senate sponsor of legislation to establish an administrative system for addressing healthcare liability and errors announced today that the bill (SB507 by Sen. Jack Johnson and HB546 by Rep. Glen Casada) will not receive any further consideration this year, but will be the subject of an ad hoc committee study this summer. Also today, the Senate version of a bill to create a system for allowing employers to create a private workers' compensation plan bypassing the state system (SB721 by Sen. Mark Green and HB 997 by Rep. Jeremy Durham), cleared its first hurdle in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee by a 6-0-2 vote, with one member absent.

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Senators Hold 'Twitter Debate'

Lawyer legislators Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, held a "Twitter Debate" today, covering Insure Tennessee, school vouchers, guns and racial profiling. Phil Williams from NewsChannel5 summarizes the conversation through the series of tweets.

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Insure Tennessee Resolution Passes Senate Committee

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed Insure Tennessee legislation Wednesday evening by a 6-2-1 vote. Senate Joint Resolution 93, which would authorize Gov. Bill Haslam to proceed with plans to use federal dollars to help working people buy into employer-sponsored health plans and expand Medicaid eligibility to poor Tennesseans, now goes to the Commerce and Labor Committee. The Tennessean has more.

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Bid to Revive Medicaid Expansion Moving in Senate

A resolution that would grant Gov. Bill Haslam the power to strike a deal with the federal government on Medicaid expansion was recommended today by the Senate Health and Welfare Subcommittee on TennCare. A special session called by the Governor in February ended with the defeat of his Insure Tennessee proposal in a 7-member Senate committee. The advancing resolution SJR 93 — sponsored by Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville — would revive that effort. The Associated Press has more

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Bill Would Overhaul Medical Malpractice Law

A bill creating a mandatory administrative medical malpractice liability system that would impact healthcare liability, including hospitals and nursing homes, is slated to be heard in committees in both houses of the General Assembly this week. If passed, the system would be similar to the workers' compensation system. SB507/HB546 is sponsored by Rep Glen Casada, R-Thompson Station, and co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Brentwood, and Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville. The TBA opposes this legislation because of its deep professional commitment to courts as the principal dispute resolution mechanism. Weigh in using TBAImpact.

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Memphis Law Hosts Health Policy Symposium

The University of Memphis School of Law and the Institute for Health Law & Policy will hold a symposium Friday on “Building Blocks for a Healthier Community.” The event will feature remarks from Sharon Z. Roerty with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; lawyer Marice Ashe, founder of ChangeLab Solutions; and Elizabeth Tobin-Taylor, an attorney and assistant professor of health services, policy and practice at Brown University School of Public Health. The event is free and open to the public.

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Legal Aid Offers Free Brochure on Navigating Tax Penalty Exemptions

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has published a new legal self-help brochure to guide Tennesseans through new health care tax penalty exemptions. The brochure is free and accessible through Legal Aid Society’s website. View the press release for more information.

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$5 Billion Recovered in Health Care Fraud in 2014

Bass Berry and Sims breaks down the numbers on health care fraud in its annual report, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The federal government in recent years has stepped up enforcement of the False Claims Act, its primary tool for curbing fraud against the government, resulting in $5 billion being recovered by the government in 2014. Of that amount, $2.3 billion involved claims against federal health care programs. View the full report.

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Reminder: Healthcare Liability Reporting Requirements

Attorneys reporting health care liability claimants are required to provide specified information related to fee arrangements and TennCare payments to the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Per the Tennessee Health Care Liability Reporting Act, the department must submit an annual report summarizing information submitted by health care providers, facilities and attorneys by March 1. Reporting requirements and instructions can be found on the department’s website. View the notice here

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Circuit Court: State Cap on Damages Unconstitutional

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge W. Neil Thomas ruled today that the state of Tennessee does not have a constitutional right to limit noneconomic damages in personal injury lawsuits. A 2011 state law supported by Gov. Bill Haslam, most Republicans and the business community capped “pain and suffering” damages at $750,000. Thomas’ ruling kicks off “another chapter in the complicated and long-running fight over tort reform,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

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Learn More About Medical-Legal Partnerships

Learn more about medical-legal partnerships at a live CLE program scheduled for March 30 in Nashville or by watching a one-hour archived webcast on the topic. Both programs are sponsored by TBA’s Access to Justice Committee and are being offered at no charge to Tennessee lawyers. The live program runs from noon to 4 p.m. and offers 3.5 hours of general credit. The video course offers one hour of general credit and can be taken at any time. The January issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal also explored how these partnerships work.

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Supreme Court Appears Divided on ACA Subsidies Case

The Supreme Court was sharply divided today in the latest challenge to President Barack Obama's health insurance overhaul, this time over the tax subsidies that make insurance affordable for millions of Americans. The justices are trying to determine whether the law makes people in all 50 states eligible for federal tax subsidies to cut the cost of insurance premiums, or if it limits tax credits to people who live in states that created their own health insurance marketplaces. According to the Associated Press, the same liberal-conservative divide that characterized earlier cases was evident in the nearly 90 minutes of back-and-forth questioning. A decision is expected by late June.

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Court to Hold Arguments in Jackson, Review 4 New Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear two health care liability disputes among four cases scheduled for oral arguments March 4 in Jackson. The court also granted review to four new cases this week. Criminal issues include indictments and relief from execution for the intellectually disabled. Civil issues include the Health Care Liability Act and marital dissolution agreements. The Raybin-Perky Hotlist reviews the four cases and offers a prediction as to how each may be decided.

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Nashville Firm Plays Role in $100M Tobacco Settlement

A federal judge yesterday morning put a 90-day hold on all of the so-called Engle Progeny tobacco pending lawsuits in the Florida federal courts after being notified of a settlement agreement. Attorneys from the Nashville office of Lieff Cabraser have won several high-profile verdicts against cigarette manufacturers in recent months, including a $41 million verdict in October, the largest victory in the Engle cases. The Nashville Scene has more.

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Shelby PD Recognized with Innovation Award

The Shelby County Public Defender’s Office is one of eight organizations to receive an Innovations in Justice Award from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Center for Court Innovation. The award recognizes programs that approach criminal justice challenges in new and effective ways, according to the Memphis Business Journal. The public defender’s office was selected for its Jericho Project, which helps those with mental illness and substance disorders that are “cycling through the criminal justice system.”

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UT Law Plans Health Care Law Symposium

The University of Tennessee College of Law will present a one-day symposium on health care law and policy issues on March 6. Sponsored by the school’s Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution and the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy, the event will feature addresses and panel discussions by legal, policy and health care leaders. Attendance is free and open to the public but online registration is required. Contact Micki Fox, (865) 974-8601 with questions.

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HCA Files Brief in ACA Subsidies Case

Nashville-based HCA Holdings has filed an amicus brief in the upcoming King v. Burwell Supreme Court case dealing with subsidies provided through the Affordable Care Act. If the plaintiffs prevail, the vast majority of ACA enrollees will have their subsidies thrown into question. That could significantly impact both consumers and Nashville's hospital companies, which have generally seen sizable revenue boosts as more patients have gained insurance coverage, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

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Hooker Says ‘Death with Dignity’ His Last Fight

John Jay Hooker tells Frank Daniels with the Tennessean that after a long and very public career, he wants his final legacy to be giving Tennesseans the right to choose how they die. “It is the ultimate civil right,” Hooker says, “to be able to die with dignity, while you still have some choice in the matter.” Last week, Hooker began telling friends that he has been diagnosed with cancer and wants to dedicate his remaining time to passing a Tennessee Death with Dignity law. Last Thursday, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, filed a bill to start the process. Though he has deep misgivings about such laws, Fitzhugh said he did it out of respect for Hooker and his lifelong fight for civil rights.

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Supreme Court Upholds Child Neglect Conviction in Religious Exemption Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court today affirmed the conviction of an East Tennessee woman who had failed to obtain medical treatment for her adolescent daughter suffering from a tumor on her shoulder. Jacqueline Crank, a member of a small congregation of the Universal Life Church in Lenoir City, said she had prayed for her daughter in accordance with her religious beliefs instead of seeking medical care. The Department of Children’s Services intervened and Crank’s daughter was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. She died in September 2002 at the age of 15. On appeal, Crank claimed that the spiritual treatment law was too vague to give her fair warning that she could be prosecuted for her conduct. The court ruled that the law was not too vague.

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Group Presents ‘Hear the Nine’ Campaign

The Center for American Progress has launched “Hear the Nine,” a months-long campaign designed to influence the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Affordable Care Act. The group will release nine personal stories — one for each justice — that highlight citizens who have benefited from health care under ACA. Business Clarksville has more.

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Democrats Propose Bills to Revive Insure Tennessee

Democratic lawmakers today put forward legislation to resurrect Insure Tennessee and also bring full Medicaid expansion to the table, the Nashville Business Journal reports. State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, has introduced two Senate joint resolutions and one bill aimed at doing so. The first resolution would allow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to pursue his Insure Tennessee proposal in the regular General Assembly session. The second aims to authorize full expansion of the state's Medicaid program, according to a news release.

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Employed, White Southerners Most Likely to Lose Coverage in SCOTUS Case

If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down tax credits for people buying health insurance on the federal exchange, about 8.2 million Americans in 34 states could lose their coverage under the Affordable Care Act. According to the Times News, most of the people likely to be affected are white, employed, low- to middle-class residents in the South.

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Butler Snow Acquires Nashville Litigation Firm

Butler Snow is acquiring locally based litigation firm Walker Tipps & Malone, according to the Nashville Business Journal. The deal will boost Butler Snow's Nashville office to more than 60 attorneys, expanding its practice lines, which currently specialize in health care, commercial litigation and business services. Walker Tipps & Malone brings along civil and business litigation as well as personal injury practices.

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Legal Aid Director Selected for Medical-Legal Fellowship

Gary Housepian, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, is among 16 civil legal aid leaders selected for the second annual Where Health Meets Justice Fellowship. Hosted by the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at the George Washington University and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, senior level staff from civil legal aid agencies in 13 states and the District of Columbia met recently in Washington, D.C., to kick off the 10-month program. Housepian is a member of the TBA's Access to Justice Committee and is currently serving on the TBA's Medical-Legal Partnership Working Group, which is working to support and promote these unique collaborations in Tennessee.

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