News

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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Court Abortion Decision Could Affect Tennessee Law

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its three final opinions for this term this morning. Among the rulings, the court found that Texas laws requiring abortion centers to meet surgical center standards and abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges constitute an undue burden on abortion access and therefore violate the constitution. The court also ruled that a domestic-violence conviction is a misdemeanor crime of violence for purposes of limiting access to firearms. The final decision vacated the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. SCOTUSblog has more on the decisions, while the Tennessean looks at the abortion ruling’s impact on similar laws in Tennessee, which are currently being challenged. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee had agreed to stay the proceedings until the high court ruled.

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DOJ Cracks Down on Insurance Fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged approximately 300 people in 25 states with health insurance fraud in just the last three days, News Channel 5 reports. Those arrested account for more than $900 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare and Medicaid. The billings were the result of services that were deemed medically unnecessary, or for services that were never provided. NBC News reports that one fifth of those arrested were licensed medical professionals, including 30 doctors. Others were involved in home health care fraud and pharmaceutical fraud.

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Judge Slone Receives Public Health Award

Fourth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Duane Slone recently received the Tennessee Public Health Association’s Visionary Award, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts. Tennessee Commissioner of Health Dr. John Dreyzehener presented the award to Slone for his work co-founding the district’s drug court, raising awareness about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome — which affects children born to mothers using opiates during pregnancy — working against legislation that would have imprisoned addicted mothers and establishing transitional housing for pregnant mothers.

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Learn About Urgent Care Trends at July 12 CLE

Urgent Care: Trends, Compliance and Regulatory Issues, a CLE course on July 12 from noon-4:15 p.m. at the Tennessee Bar Center, will address the corporate practice of medicine, staffing issues, compliance matters, permits and licensures. A panel of experts will provide their unique perspectives on how new urgent care health care trends will impact hospitals, physicians and urgent care companies. The course is approved for three CLE credits. 

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Activists File Suit Over State's New Counseling Law

The Tennessean reports that two male gay rights activist filed a lawsuit today in Anderson County Chancery Court challenging the state’s new law that permits counselors to deny service based on their personal principles. The pair, one of whom is an Anderson County resident, claim the new law violates the right to equal treatment guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution. 

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Doctor, Drug Testing Lab Settle False Claims Act Case

The Nashville Post reports Jonathan Oppenheimer, who ran drug testing laboratories OURLab and OPKO Lab, will pay more than $9.3 million to settle False Claims Act allegations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee yesterday said that the Nashville company violated anti-kickback statutes by placing certain conditions on the financial support they were giving physician practices investing in electronic health records systems.

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Health Care Task Force to Present Plan to Federal Authorities

House Speaker Beth Harwell's 3-Star Legislative Task Force is weeks away from showing federal Medicaid officials some of its plan for improving insurance access for Tennesseans. According to WPLN, the group is favoring giving more support to clinics, over offering residents insurance through Medicaid. As many as 300,000 Tennesseans cannot afford insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but still do not qualify for Medicaid.

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Oklahoma Gov. Vetoes Bill That Would Criminalize Abortion

CNN reports Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin today vetoed a bill that would criminalize abortion procedures in the state. "The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered 'necessary to preserve the life of the mother,'" Fallin, a Republican, said.  

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Oklahoma Bill Criminalizes Performing Abortions

Lawmakers in Oklahoma passed a bill today that would make performing abortions a felony, Huffington Post reports. The measure, which contains no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, is now headed to the desk of Oklahoma’s Republican governor. The Associated Press adds that under the measure, those who perform an abortion could be punished with up to three years in prison and would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in the state. 

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Court Rules Health Care Subsidies Unconstitutional

A federal judge today ruled that the administration is unconstitutionally subsidizing medical bills for millions of people while ignoring congressional power over government spending, WSMV reports.  The ruling from U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer was a win for House Republicans who brought the politically charged legal challenge in an effort to undermine Obama-backed health care reforms. At issue is the $175 billion the government is paying to reimburse health insurers over a decade to reduce deductibles and co-payments for lower-income people.

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Health Care Task Force Meets in Memphis

The health care task force, created by House Speaker Beth Harwell in April, held its third meeting yesterday in Memphis. The Commercial Appeal reports task force chairman Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said the group will re-evaluate which parts of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee Plan can be supported by the General Assembly after the full plan failed to win legislative approval. Sexton added the group, dubbed the “3-Star Healthy Project,” could attempt to ease restrictions on faith-based health care organizations. 

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Nursing Home Ejections Raise Legal Questions

The ABA Journal explores the legality of nursing homes ejecting patients who are considered undesirable. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program found eviction and discharge complaints have increased about 57 percent since 2000. The article highlights a California case where the family of an ousted patient appealed to the health department and won, yet the nursing home still refused to readmit the patient. 

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AG: Settlement Reached with Pharmaceutical Company

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced on Friday that Tennessee reached a $784.6 million settlement with Wyeth, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer Inc. The settlement will resolve allegations that Wyeth knowingly underpaid rebates owed under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program for the sales of Protonix Oral and Protonix IV between 2001 and 2006. Tennessee will receive an estimated $30.4 million under the settlement.  

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Roundup of Bills That Alter or Reverse Earlier Actions

The Tennessean outlines five examples of bills the legislature approved this year that will alter or reverse their earlier actions. Legislative topics include wine in supermarkets, spiritual treatment and horse racing in Tennessee. 

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Haslam Signs Bill Permitting Counselors to Deny Service

Gov. Bill Haslam today signed into a law a bill that allows licensed counselors and therapists to deny service to clients whose "goals, outcomes or behaviors" conflict with the counselor’s “sincerely held principles.” The bill (SB 1556) shields counselors from civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution and sanctions by the state licensing board. The Tennessean reports Haslam said he felt comfortable signing the law, which as passed, requires a counselor to take a client who has an emergency and life threatening situation. The American Counseling Association condemned the measure, calling it a “hate bill.” 

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Health Care Task Force Holds Inaugural Meeting

A new legislate task force focused on expanding Tennessee’s health coverage held its inaugural meeting Tuesday. “The 3-Star Healthy Project” was established earlier this month by House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. The task force estimates there’s between 200,000 and 400,000 uninsured individuals in the state, largely consisting of employees in food service and construction industries, as well as veterans. Read more from The Tennessean

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Federal Judge Orders Recount on Abortion Ballot Measure

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp ordered election officials Friday to recount the votes on the 2014 abortion ballot measure Amendment 1, The Associated Press reports. Sharp said the the method used to count votes was “fundamentally” unfair to the eight Tennesseans who filed a lawsuit challenging the election results. Sharp gave the state 20 days to submit a recount plan. The Tennessean reports Vanderbilt University law professor Tracy George, one of the eight plaintiffs who brought the suit, said the amendment – which made it easier to put restrictions on abortions – would fail on a recount. The federal decision came late Friday, after a Williamson County judge had upheld the vote count. Sharp said that ruling has no impact on his decision. 

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Harwell Announces New Health Care Task Force

Gov. Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, today announced the creation of a legislative task force to focus on Tennessee's options for expanding health coverage. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports the announcement comes after the failure of the Haslam’s alternative Medicaid expansion plan, “Insure Tennessee,” last year. The task force will be chaired by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and the group will complete its work by June. 

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Bill Permitting Counselors to Deny Service Heads to Haslam

A bill that would allow Tennessee mental health therapists to deny care for patients based on the counselors’ personal principles is now on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam. The state Senate approved the measure (SB1556) in February and yesterday signed off on a language change that dropped religious beliefs and instead added the broader language of “principles.” The House approved the measure earlier this month. Haslam has said he wants to see the final version before deciding whether to sign it into law, The Associated Press reports

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TBA Earns Top National Award for MLP Program

INDIANAPOLIS, April 7, 2016 — The TBA today received the 2016 ABA Outstanding Pro Bono Advocacy Award in Medical-Legal Partnership from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.

The Award was presented in recognition of the TBA’s outstanding leadership in promoting medical-legal partnerships to the legal community, engaging volunteer lawyers and identifying and building relationships within the medical profession, in part through the  formation of a Medical-Legal Partnership Working Group.

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TBA Earns Top Pro Bono Award for Medical-Leadership Partnership

The TBA today received a Pro Bono Advocacy Award in Medical-Legal Partnership from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. The award was presented in recognition of the TBA’s outstanding leadership in promoting medical-legal partnerships to the legal community, engaging volunteer lawyers and identifying and building relationships within the medical profession, in part through the formation of a Medical-Legal Partnership Working Group. Past TBA President Jonathan Steen and MLP Working Group Chair Charlie McDaniel today accepted the award during the annual MLP Summit, this year held in Indianapolis. 

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