News

Lipscomb Doc Series Explores Health Care Issues

Lipscomb University’s HumanDocs Film Series will present “The Waiting Room” Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in Shamblin Theatre on campus. The film explores the nation’s health care system by weaving together the stories of patients and caregivers at a public hospital in Oakland. A panel discussion featuring Tennessee Justice Center director Gordon Bonnyman, medical student Italo Brown and veteran emergency room physician Harold Smith will take place before the screening.

Lawmakers Issue Subpoena for Meningitis-linked Pharmacy Director

Congressional lawmakers have issued a subpoena for the director of the Massachusetts pharmacy linked to the deadly meningitis outbreak, the Elizabethton Star reports. The subpoena came after a lawyer for Barry Cadden, co-founder of New England Compounding Center --  where the contaminated steroid shots were distributed from -- told lawmakers he would not voluntarily attend a congressional hearing.

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Vanderbilt, Legal Aid Make News for Partnership

Many patients at Vanderbilt University’s Shade Tree Clinic are there because of chronic health conditions that are aggravated by where and how they live. In addition to medical treatment, these individuals usually need some kind of entry into the legal or court system to resolve those issues. A medical-legal partnership between the clinic and the Legal Aid Society in Nashville is helping bridge that gap. A story in the Nashville Ledger looks at the collaboration and how it is working to improve the prevention side of medical care.

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McMinnville Widow Sues after Wife's Meningitis Death

A McMinnville widower has filed a lawsuit against Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center after his wife died of meningitis from an infected steroid shot produced by the company, WSMV.com reports. His lawyer is requesting $50 million in damages. According to recent updates, the Center for Disease Control has confirmed 297 cases of fungal meningitis in 16 states with 23 deaths. The Nashville City Paper reports on other meningitis suits.

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Meningitis-Related Suit Filed in Columbia

A Maury County couple is seeking $12.5 million in a meningitis-related lawsuit filed Friday in Columbia. Basil McElwee received steroid injections at St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center in Nashville on Aug. 20 and Sept. 4, became seriously ill and is currently hospitalized there, the lawsuit says. Columbia attorney Patrick Carter is representing the McElwees in their suit against New England Compounding Pharmacy, manufacturer of the injectable steroid.

Ethics Complaint Filed Against DesJarlais

The D.C. based organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, alleging that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a female patient he was treating for a medical condition. The group filed the complaint after a news story suggested that DesJarlais pressured a patient with whom he was involved to seek an abortion. According to the Nashville City Paper, the congressman says he knew the woman was not pregnant and was using "strong language" in hopes she would admit the truth.

In related news, the Chattanooga Times Free Press is reporting that the Tennessee Conservative Union (TCU) is debating whether to ask DesJarlais to resign his seat. It also indicates that TCU Chairman Lloyd Daugherty is talking with other Republican-leaning groups to see if a coalition can be built to demand the doctor’s resignation from Congress.

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Meningitis Suit Filed in Nashville

The Nashville law firm of Kinnard, Clayton and Beveridge yesterday filed what it says is the first meningitis-related suit in the state stemming from contaminated steroid injections at area hospitals. The plaintiff is a 71 year-old Hendersonville woman who says she was infected with fungal meningitis in August after receiving a steroid injection at Saint Thomas Hospital. The suit seeks $15 million for medical expenses and pain and suffering. Randall Kinnard, a principal at the firm, said the lawsuit is the first of at least a dozen more he plans to file on behalf of area victims. The Tennessean reports on the case

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Legal Battle May be Brewing Over Malpractice Caps

Legal opposition to the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011 has been filed in federal court, arguing that Gov. Bill Haslam’s landmark tort law is unconstitutional The Tennessean reports. Nashville lawyer David Randolph Smith, who led the legal fight against the guns-in-bars law and the English-only ballot measure in the state, filed the suit. Federal Judge Kevin H. Sharp could either rule on the issue or send the question to the state Supreme Court.

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First Federal Suit Filed in Meningitis Outbreak

According to most recent reports, 15 new cases of fungal meningitis were announced today, bringing the nationwide total to 184. As that number continues to grow, a group of plaintiffs have filed the first federal class action suit against the Framingham, Mass., pharmaceutical company alleged to be the source of the contaminated spinal steroids. The suit, filed in a U.S. District Court in Minnesota, charges that the company “had a duty to use reasonable care in designing and manufacturing the methylprednisolone acetate steroid doses such that they are not unreasonably dangerous.” The Tennessean has the story

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Lawsuits from Meningitis Outbreak Expected to Rise

Legal experts foresee lawsuits related to the meningitis outbreak to grow, News Channel 5 reports. According to recent reports, there have been 39 cases of infection and six deaths in Tennessee, while the national death toll has risen to 11. While no suits have been filed yet, many law firms say they have been contacted about legal rights regarding the outbreak.

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Health Law, Supreme Court Boot Camp See Record Numbers

Tennessee lawyers had lots of options last Thursday and Friday to learn more about health law, as well as how to practice before the state Supreme Court. First, nearly 300 attorneys attended the 24th Annual Health Law Forum in Cool Springs and a record number attended the Health Law Primer the day before. At the meeting, Section Chair Walt Schuler introduced next year’s chair, Angela Youngberg, and vice chair, Christie Burbank, during the group’s annual business meeting. Just down the road, the 2012 Supreme Court Bootcamp, sponsored by the TBA's Appellate Practice Section, was underway, bringing more than 20 attorneys to Nashville for the annual program, which included skills building sessions and a trip to the Supreme Court, where attendees observed two oral arguments then took part in a debriefing with the attorneys who argued the cases. See a picture of the group.

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Medicare Fraud Ruling Overturned

A federal appeals court overturned an $82.6 million judgment and civil charges against Renal Care Group, Renal Care Group Supply Co., and Fresneius Medical Care Holding Inc. for improperly billing Medicare from 1999-2005. According to the Memphis Daily News, Judge R. Guy Cook concluded the companies did not intentionally disregard legal mandates related to Medicare submissions. The three-judge panel also sent back five other allegations stemming from a whistleblowing lawsuit to be heard by U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. in Nashville.

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Legal Issues Surround Employer Health Care

Tennessee is one of 24 states that has not determined a position on whether to choose state, federal or federal/state partnership-operated health exchange to facilitate individual purchases of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, attorney Dick Cowart writes in a column. The individual and Medicaid mandates have been much in the news and in the courts already, but Cowart explains that the "employer mandate" will be the next hurdle, and some employers are worried. Read his column in the Tennessean.

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Health Law Section Welcomes New Officers

TBA Health Care Law Section Chair Walt Schuler introduced next year’s chair, Angela Youngberg, and vice chair, Christie Burbank, to section members during the group’s annual business meeting at the 24th Annual Health Law Forum. Nearly 300 attorneys attended the annual forum in Cool Springs. The section also elected two new members to the section’s executive council -- Brian Roark of Bass, Berry & Sims in Nashville and John-David Thomas of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nashville.

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Health Law Programs Offer Range of Information

The TBA's Health Law Primer is Wednesday, followed by the 24th annual Health Law Forum on Thursday and Friday. The Primer will provide a general health law overview, while the Forum will include more in-depth information, including a discussion of the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, presentations on hospital-physician integration models, contracting with health care software vendors from the provider's perspective, monitoring compliance, updates on the Stark law, and much more. Register here

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Premier Health Law Events Next Week

The Tennessee Bar Association is all about health law next week with its Health Law Primer (Oct. 3) and 24th annual Health Law Forum (Oct 4-5). The Primer will provide a general health law overview, with experienced health care leaders discussing hot topics facing the "players" in the health care industry, including physicians, hospitals, insurers and the government. Recognized as one of the premier health law programs in the country, the Forum will include a discussion of the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, as well as presentations on hospital-physician integration models, contracting with health care software vendors from the provider's perspective, monitoring compliance, updates on the Stark law, and much more. Register here

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Legal Clinic Partnership Set in Chattanooga

Legal Aid of East Tennessee has partnered with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and the law firm Miller & Martin to offer a free legal advice clinic on Sept.13, at 2 p.m., at the downtown office of BlueCross Blueshield, 1 Cameron Hill Circle, Chattanooga 37402. Individuals interested in meeting with a lawyer for free legal advice at this clinic should call Legal Aid of East Tennessee at 423 756-4013.

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3rd Congressional District Candidates Spar Over Health Care

Six candidates for Tennessee's Third Congressional District debated health care policy during a Monday night forum put on by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society. The four Republican candidates and two Democratic candidates opened the forum with brief statements, some taking immediate jabs at the Affordable Care Act, WRCB reports. Those participating were Scottie Mayfield, Weston Wamp, Bill Taylor, Ron Bhalla, Mary Headrick and Chuck Fleischmann, who is the incumbent. Independent candidate Matthew Deniston did not attend.

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Ice Cream and Affordable Care Act Served Up Together

Learn what's next for the Affordable Care Act in a webcast this week from the Tennessee Bar Association's Health Care Law Section. The webcast starts noon central time on Thursday, but lawyers are invited to stop by the Tennessee Bar Center to watch it live if they like. In addition, those attending live will be able to enjoy complementary ice cream and take part in a free 30-minute Q and A session following the webcast hosted by section leaders David Lewis of LifePoint Hospitals and Bill Young, solicitor general of the Tennessee Attorney General's Office.

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Special Session May Be Needed to Handle Health Care Exchange

The Tennessean says that Democrats and Republicans alike have been kicking around the idea of a special session to handle aspects of the Affordable Care Act. The biggest question is how to deal with a requirement that state governments set up special exchanges where residents can buy health coverage before the insurance mandate goes into effect in 2014. The state faces a critical deadline in January, when officials must demonstrate to the federal government that they’ll have Tennessee’s exchange ready in time.

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Opinion: Justices Give Good Civics Lesson

Jackson lawyer Kevin P. McMahon writes in a Jackson Sun opinion piece that the first six pages of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in the Affordable Care Act case should be required reading in every school, calling it a "much-needed civics lesson." McMahon writes that "it all comes down to an electorate that is both informed and engaged, and that holds government officials accountable." Becoming well-informed starts with a good civics lesson, he contends. "The chief justice and the dissenters have provided the grist," he writes. "We citizens now must make the effort to teach, and apply, what they have written."

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Vanderbilt Professor Influences SCOTUS Health Care Decision

States that decline to participate in the coming vast expansion of Medicaid have a Vanderbilt Law School professor to thank for that option. An amicus brief filed by James F. Blumstein, professor of constitutional law and health law and policy, provided the legal argument cited by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in his decision that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid mandate on states was unenforceable. As a result of that decision, states may opt into the ACA’s expanded Medicaid program but also may opt out without placing their existing Medicaid programs and funding in jeopardy. Read more about Blumstein’s role

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Sources: Roberts Changed His Mind on Health Care Act

Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court's four conservative justices to strike down the heart of the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations. CBS's Face the Nation looks into the process and possibilities of why Roberts changed course.

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State to Share in $3 Billion From Drug Company

Tennessee will receive at least $13.5 million as part of one of the largest health care fraud agreements in U.S. history, Attorney General Bob Cooper announced today. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has agreed to pay $3 billion to the federal government and participating states nationally to resolve allegations that GSK engaged in various illegal schemes related to the marketing and pricing of drugs it manufactures. GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and to pay $1 billion in criminal fines and forfeitures for the illegal marketing and promotion of the drugs Paxil and Wellbutrin. DOJ officials said the company will pay an additional $2 billion to resolve civil allegations under the False Claims Act. The Blog of Legal Times has details

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Roberts Surprises as Court Upholds Health Care Act

The high court today let stand, in a 5-4 decision, the centerpiece of President Obama's health care legislation, with Chief Justice John Roberts surprising many by casting the deciding vote and writing the majority opinion. His rationale is that Congress under the Commerce Clause does not have the authority to require people to buy insurance — but it does have the authority to tax people who do not have coverage. The so-called individual mandate embedded in the health care legislation, Roberts wrote, "must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable." Read more from NPR and the National Law Journal. Relive the action as it unfolded, from the Blog of Legal Times or read what Tennessee business, health care and political leaders had to say in the Nashville Post.

The Tennessee Bar Association will explore what the next steps will be for the legislation in a July 12 webcast featuring John Voigt of Sherrard & Roe. Learn more or register now.

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