News

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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Waller Adds 11 Attorneys

Waller today announced the addition of 11 new attorneys to several key practice groups: real estate, finance and restructuring, labor and employment, healthcare compliance and operations, and litigation and dispute resolution practices. "In response to the needs of our clients, we continue to experience tremendous growth in practices that are core strengths of our firm," said Waller chair Matt Burnstein.

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Should Vaccination Be a Choice?

The question of whether parents should be forced to vaccinate their children spilled into the 2016 presidential race this week as potential Republican contenders Kentucky Sen. Ran Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended and clarified comments they made expressing support for voluntary immunizations. A review of state laws, however, shows that parents already have a fair amount of freedom in deciding whether to vaccinate their children. Every state requires school-aged children to receive certain vaccines, but many states also carve out exemptions — some broader than others — that give parents the choice to opt-out. The Wall Street Journal law blog has more.

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Lawmakers Vote Down 'Insure Tennessee'

Gov. Bill Haslam's "Insure Tennessee" plan was effectively killed today after the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare voted 4-7 to defeat the proposal. Haslam spent nearly two years negotiating with federal officials to find an alternative for expanding Medicaid in the state. The plan would have used federal funds to expand coverage to about 280,000 additional Tennesseans and cover 100 percent of the program's cost for two years, after which federal support drops down to 90 percent.

Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, made a final, personal plea to committee members, telling them that they should at least vote to let the full Senate get a chance to weigh in. “I did put my heart into it because I felt that strongly that it’s the right thing to do," Overbey told WPLN following the vote. Asked if he would try to push his plan during the regular session of the legislature, Haslam said that seemed "a little pointless." He also said it was unlikely that the federal government would agree to some of the changes legislators requested, though he said he was willing to try. With no prospects of passing the plan, both the House and Senate formally ended their respective special sessions this evening. The Nashville Business Journal has more.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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