News

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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 »