News

Nonprofit's Role Unclear with New Chattanooga Family Justice Center

With the opening of the new Chattanooga Family Justice Center later this year, the role of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults is no longer clear, WDEF reports. Established 137 years ago, the Partnership is a non-profit group that deals with family violence, elder abuse and human trafficking. It already offers most of the same crisis one-stop services at its downtown location that the new Family Justice Center will offer. The city's goal with the new facility is to also offer those in crisis one-stop service, but the question arises: what role will Partnership will play?

read more »

House Again Votes to Repeal Affordable Care Act

The Republican-led House of Representatives yesterday passed legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, a measure that the Obama administration already vowed to veto. The vote was 239-186, with no House Democrat supporting the measure and three House GOP freshmen opposing it. This latest vote marked the 67th time the House has voted to entirely repeal, defund or change some provisions of President Barack Obama's signature health care law. WCYB reports from CNN.

read more »

Special Session Begins Tonight with Haslam Speech

The Tennessee legislature reconvened today after a two-week recess for a special session to consider Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” plan, an alternative to Medicaid expansion for as many as 280,000 uninsured low-income working Tennesseans. Haslam will speak to a joint House-Senate session this evening, laying out his case for the plan. Leaders of both parties say there are not enough votes yet in either chamber to pass the plan. The Commercial Appeal looks at how lobbying efforts are shaping up, while the Tennessean reports that Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, will introduce the governor's plan in the Senate and Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, will sponsor the proposal in the House.

read more »

Bill Clinton to Speak in Nashville This Summer

Former President Bill Clinton will be in Nashville in June to speak at a conference for health insurance professionals, the Tennessean reports. Nashville politicos are questioning whether he will also use the trip to offer a hand to Nashville mayoral candidate Jeremy Kane, a friend of Clinton’s who will be entering the homestretch of his race.

read more »

Chattanooga Lawmakers Question Gov. Haslam on Insure Tennessee

Chattanooga lawmakers peppered Gov. Bill Haslam with questions about his Insure Tennessee health insurance plan this morning, asking everything from details about copays, to whether the federal government is a trustworthy partner in the effort. Chattanooga is the latest stop on the governor's statewide sprint to meet with lawmakers before the Tennessee legislature starts a special session next week to consider the plan. Haslam said after the roundtable that it is still too early to predict whether he has the votes from the legislature to pass the bill. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story.

read more »

Court Dismisses Med Mal Suit for Lack of Notice

The Tennessee Supreme Court has dismissed a health care liability lawsuit against six Knoxville medical providers because they were not provided with at least 60 days’ pre-suit notice of the action, as required under Tennessee law. The decision overturns the appellate court ruling that the plaintiffs did not need to provide the notice after reviving a suit they initially had provided notice for but ultimately dismissed. The high court disagreed, saying notice must be given each time a complaint is to be filed. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Gary Wade argued the initial notice should suffice and that the case should be decided on the merits rather than procedural grounds. Read more from the court.

read more »

Legal Aid Releases Public Guide to Conservatorships

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has released a new free brochure on conservatorship in Tennessee, the Leaf Chronicle reports. It provides information to family members, caregivers and friends who may want to help someone by becoming their conservator, as well as to those who need or already have a conservator making their decisions. For both groups, the booklet outlines basic information such as what a conservatorship is, the types of conservatorships available, the legal requirements to become a conservator, how to apply for a conservator to be appointed and how to end a conservatorship. Download a copy or pick up hard copies from your local legal aid office.

read more »

AG: State May Expand Medicaid, Assess Fee to Pay for It

Tennessee may expand its Medicaid program through the Affordable Care Act and discontinue later, according to a new opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. State Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, requested the opinion to determine if the state has the legal authority to extend coverage to a large population and then potentially remove it. Slatery found that the coverage could be ended so long as a “phase-out” plan is identified in the original authorization and followed during the termination period. The opinion likely helps Gov. Bill Haslam avoid a legal hurdle in implementing his Insure Tennessee plan, the Tennessean reports. The opinion also found that the state could implement a fee on hospitals to help cover the cost of the plan. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the plan today.

read more »

Legal Aid Gets $55,000 Grant for Medical-Legal Partnership

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has received a $55,000 grant from Baptist Healing Trust to support its Medical-Legal Partnership program, a collaboration with United Neighborhood Health Services and Vanderbilt University’s student-run Shade Tree Clinic. Medical-legal partnerships bring civil legal aid to health care locations and train medical staff to recognize legal issues that can adversely impact patients’ health. Increasing awareness about the success of these partnerships is one of TBA President Jonathan Steen’s goals for the year. This month's issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal looks at how these partnerships work.

read more »

Haslam on State Tour to Push Medicaid Plan

Gov. Bill Haslam says he is not counting votes in the legislature yet for his Insure Tennessee Medicaid proposal, but he is counting on winning public support for the plan as he holds a series of nine public forums across the state, the Memphis Daily News reports. I’m not here to get anybody’s vote,” Haslam said at the outset of yesterday’s forum in Nashville. “I honestly think most people are trying to figure this out. There’s a big group of people in the middle that have questions both financial, philosophical and practical about how this will work. It’s our obligation to go out and give people every chance in the world to understand the plan.”

read more »

Lawmakers File Bill to Block State Health Exchange

Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, and Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, have filed legislation that would block the creation of a state health exchange in the event a federal court rules that tax credits under the Affordable Care Act are available only on state exchanges. Senate Bill 72 is designed to prevent “Tennessee from operating any ObamaCare exchanges in the future,” Kelsey said in a statement. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in King vs. Burwell — a case that challenges the use of tax subsidies on the federal exchange under the ACA — on March 4. The Tennessean has the story.

read more »

Catch Up With TennCare Rule Changes

Learn about TennCare rule changes that go into effect Jan. 1 related to the Safety Determination process and PAE Functional Assessment. This one-credit CLE course will review the changes to select functional assessment questions and criteria.  Visit TBA CLE to register.

read more »

McNally Questions Legality of Insure Tennessee Plan

In a five-page letter to the state attorney general, Tennessee Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, has posed a series of questions about the legal validity of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to expand Medicaid, Knoxnews reports. The letter raises a series of questions, including long-term financial liabilities for the state, the constitutionality of terminating coverage after the two-year pilot expires and the legality of an assessment fee to be imposed on Tennessee hospitals. “We need a lot of in-depth type questions answered,” McNally said, adding he believes the “vast majority” of Republican legislators are — like himself — undecided about the proposal but are willing to listen and learn more about it.

read more »

Proposed Bill Would Require 'Informed Consent' for Abortions

Doctors would need to provide women more information about pregnancies and abortions before performing an abortion if a bill filed Wednesday in the Tennessee General Assembly becomes law. The “informed consent” proposal comes from state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and would restore a law that was in effect in Tennessee before a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling that drastically changed abortion laws in the state. The Tennessean has the story.

read more »

Haslam Releases Medicaid Details, Calls for Special Session

Gov. Bill Haslam today released details for his “Insure Tennessee” plan and called on the General Assembly to hold a special session Feb. 2 to consider the proposal. Haslam’s plan would use federal Medicaid funding to create two coverage options for Tennesseans, according to the Nashville Business Journal. The first, the Volunteer Plan, would allow working Tennesseans to obtain vouchers to cover the cost of employer-offered insurance. The second option, the Healthy Incentives Plan, would create accounts to reimburse TennCare recipients for out-of-pocket health care costs. Download details of the plan.

read more »

Law School, Children’s Hospital Partner for Healthy Homes

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital will unveil a new joint project next Thursday to promote healthy homes, the Memphis Business Journal reports. The Healthy Homes Partnership is designed to help eliminate environmental and safety hazards in housing by fostering collaboration among housing agencies, legal services organizations and health care providers.

read more »

Legislators Pledge Response to Hospital Bonuses

A backlash over Erlanger’s Health System’s generous bonuses to top managers is ramping up as Hamilton County lawmakers ready for the legislative session, the Times Free Press reports. State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said the payouts, which came just months after the hospital froze vacation time, tightened benefits and phased out pensions and retiree insurance, “could be the most expensive bonuses anybody has ever gotten.” Also at issue is whether hospital trustees violated the open meetings law when they discussed the bonuses at two closed meetings. Area lawmakers say they plan to ask the state attorney general to rule on whether the law was violated and several say they plan to introduce legislation to modify a 2008 law that allows public hospitals to discuss strategic plans in private meetings.

read more »

Halsam’s ‘Insure Tennessee’ Faces Challenges

In less than a month, Gov. Bill Haslam embarks on possibly the biggest political challenge of his career: trying to pass "Insure Tennessee," his plan to use federal Medicaid expansion dollars to create new health programs for an estimated 200,000 lower-income Tennesseans. Haslam said his plan is not traditional Medicaid expansions, but emphasizes personal responsibility, requiring Tennessee residents newly eligible for some publicly financed health coverage to take an active role in making better health care decisions. Not all Republicans are behind the plan, however. Republicans have the numbers to get any bill passed without any Democrats supporting it, but if there are enough Republicans opposed to any plan, Democratic support in the House will be key, the Tennessean reports.

read more »

Lawyers, Doctors Team Up to Help Those in Need

The January Tennessee Bar Journal explores Medical-Legal Partnerships, a concept where doctors and lawyers work together to help the overall well-being of people in need. As part of this issue's emphasis on Access to Justice, you can also read about a recent legal needs study with troubling results, as well as about those honored with public service awards for outstanding service to people in need. President Jonathan Steen writes about an important New Year's Resolution: do more pro bono, which he says he plans to keep better than his usual resolutions to eat healthier, get more sleep and exercise regularly.

read more »

Tennessee Lawmakers Voice Opposition to ACA Tax Incentives

Nineteen current and former Tennessee legislators have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of petitioners who oppose tax incentives to health insurance plans bought on the federal exchange. This March, the Court is set to hear the case of King v. Burwell in which the central question is whether health insurance on federal or state exchanges are eligible for tax incentives or whether tax incentives are available only on state exchanges. The Tennessean has more.

read more »

Lawyers Help TennCare Members Get Life-Saving Drugs

A recent Tennessean article features the work of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberland’s in helping TennCare clients get access to life-saving drugs. In one case, the agency was able to secure approval for an innovative hepatitis C drug that costs $84,000 for a 12-week treatment. The cases present a financial quandary for TennCare though. Innovative drugs account for a 14 percent increase in pharmacy costs this year and TennCare Director Darin Gordon says the Medicaid statute is not designed to allow states to respond to new high-cost specialty drugs. The Tennessean looks at the issue.

read more »

Feds Drop Case Against Doctor Selling Canadian Drugs

In an unexplained move, the U.S. Department of Justice has asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the conviction of a Greeneville oncologist and his wife, Knoxnews reports. The department filed the motion in the case of Dr. Anindya Sen and his office manager Patricia Posey Sen, who were convicted of buying mislabeled cancer drugs from Canada. The couple claims that the supplier had assured them that the drugs were approved by the FDA, and that they did not know until several years later that the drugs came from foreign sources. In what some argued was an overreach by the government, the couple also was charged with health care fraud, with prosecutors arguing that they purchased the cheaper drugs so they could defraud Medicare. A jury rejected that and other felony charges brought against them. The latest move by the DOJ would vacate the misdemeanor conviction and prohibit the case from being resurrected.

read more »

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 »