News

Court Remands Obamacare Question to 6th Circuit

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday breathed new life into the religious objections of Catholic groups in Michigan and Tennessee to the Affordable Care Act requirement for contraception coverage in health plans, Reuters reports. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the administration’s position in a case that pre-dated the high court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The Supreme Court directed the appeals court to reconsider its decision in light of the June 2014 ruling that allowed certain privately owned corporations to seek exemptions from the provision.

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New Series for Elder and Health Law Attorneys Starts in May

A new webcast series starts May 5 and runs to the end of the month for elder law and health law attorneys. This series addresses TennCare changes, managed care delivery, intellectual disabilities and Medicaid coverage.

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Legislative Session Wraps Up

State lawmakers finished their work for the 2015 legislative session just before 10 p.m. last night, the Tennessean reports. Among the bills passed yesterday, lawmakers approved an additional exemption to the Hall tax on investment income, new rules for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and the use of cannabis oil to treat seizures. Among the bills that failed to advance were measures allowing undocumented immigrants’ children who grew up in Tennessee to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities (which lost by one vote), allowing residents of parts of cities to de-annex territory, and banning alcohol sales to people with three or more drunken driving convictions. See a break down of more legislative winners and losers from the Associated Press.

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Feds Warn of Possible Medicaid Funding Cuts

Obama administration officials are warning Tennessee, which has failed to expand Medicaid coverage, that federal funding for treating uninsured patients could dry up, reports the Tennessean. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services apparently has contacted Tennessee officials to highlight principles that will be used in evaluating the continued funding of so-called Medicaid funding pools, which provide about $1.3 billion a year to the state to help offset the costs of providing uncompensated care. Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association, says any cuts to the funds would be catastrophic.

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New CLE Series for Elder, Health Law Lawyers

A new CLE webcast series starts May 5 and runs through the end of the month for elder law and health law lawyers. The series will address TennCare changes, managed care delivery, intellectual disabilities and Medicaid coverage. Sign up for one or all of the sessions on the TBA CLE website.

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Legislators Approve Rape-Kit Testing and Cannabis Oil Bills

Legislators approved and sent to Gov. Bill Haslam a bill that would create a protocol for the collection of sexual assault evidence kits. Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, the bill should go a long way in alleviating the kind of situation that resulted in a backlog of untested rape kits in Memphis and other parts of the state, the Citizen Tribune reports. Lawmakers also approved a bill allowing a person to possess cannabis oil under certain conditions. If it becomes law, certain amounts of cannabis oil can be used for the treatment of intractable seizures, especially in the case of children.

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House OKs $33.3 Billion Spending Plan

The Tennessee House has approved $33.3 billion for the state's annual budget after rejecting Democrat attempts to add an authorization for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to strike a deal with the federal government over Medicaid expansion. Passing a balanced budget is one of the few constitutional requirements for Tennessee lawmakers, Memphis Daily News reports.

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Health Law Key to Polsinelli Nashville Move

A Nashville office is mandatory for building a national healthcare practice, Polsinelli Chairman Russ Welsh tells the Nashville Business Journal in an interview about the Kansas City-based firm's entry into the Tennessee legal market. Nashville legal leaders say the move also speaks to the economic growth and heightened profile of the city. The firm is among the nation's 100 largest law firms by revenue and has been listed by American Lawyer as the fastest growing. “It is a continued sign of our market’s growth, opportunity and increased national prominence,” Waller Chairman Matt Burnstein says.

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Legislature Approves Use of Cannabidiol Oil

Both chambers of the legislature last evening approved a bill allowing Tennesseans to possess cannabidiol oil with less than nine-tenths of one percent of tetrahydrocannabinol when a family member has been diagnosed by a doctor with intractable seizures, the Commercial Appeal reports in its legislative roundup. Families with children who suffer from chronic seizures have been lobbying lawmakers for the legislation.

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TALS Seeks Presenters for Equal Justice Conference

The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) is seeking presenters to speak at this year’s Equal Justice University set for Sept. 2-4 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro. The conference, cosponsored by the TBA, is the annual gathering for Tennessee’s Access to Justice community. Speakers are sought to provide substantive law courses, ethics and professionalism training, and technology and communications skills. Send proposals by May 15 to TALS’ Policy & Training Director Anne Fox.

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National Law Firm Opens Nashville Office

Polsinelli PC, a Kansas City-based law firm that is among the 100 largest in the country, has opened a Nashville office, the Nashville Business Journal reported today. The firm has hired two Nashville healthcare attorneys -- Bobby Guy and Robert Dempsey, both previously with Frost Brown Todd – to run the office. It hopes to grow in other industry areas over time. Polsinelli operates 21 offices throughout the country with more than 740 attorneys. It already has a regional office in Chattanooga.

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TJC Accepting ‘Mother of the Year’ Nominations

The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is accepting nominations for its annual “Mother of the Year” celebration, the Tennessean reports. Any mother, foster mother or grandmother who has shown extraordinary love and courage in advocating not just for her own children, but for all children in need, may be nominated. Children may nominate a caregiver by submitting a picture depicting why that person is a healthcare hero. Nominations must be received by April 25.

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GOP Medical Marijuana Bill Delayed

A Republican-backed effort to legalize marijuana for limited medicinal purposes in Tennessee has been delayed until 2016. Senate Health and Welfare Committee chairman Rusty Crowe said there wasn't enough time to fully discuss the pros and cons of the bill and that he would create a summer study commission to look at it. The Tennessean has more.

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NBJ Honors Health Care Professionals

The Nashville Business Journal recently announced its 2015 class of Health Care Heroes. Attorneys among the group were regognized in the “Health Care Professional Services” category. They are: Anna Grizzle, a partner at Bass, Berry & Sims; Ken Marlow, partner and healthcare department chair at Waller; and Rhonda Sides, principal for healthcare services, forensic/valuation and litigation support services at Crosslin & Associates. The honorees will be recognized at an awards luncheon May 20 at the Omni Nashville Hotel.

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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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