News

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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Possible Outcomes in Health Care Case

The Chattanooga Times Free Press has this article from the Associated Press looking at six possible outcomes in tomorrow’s likely healthcare decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. Check it out here

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Haslam: State Ready for Supreme Court Ruling

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says the state is ready for Thursday’s expected Supreme Court ruling on the federal health care overhaul, no matter what the court decides. That’s because the state has been carefully keeping its options open for the last year, according to the Nashville Public Radio. If the law stands, the state’s main responsibility would be setting up an insurance exchange. Haslam says the state has been using federal grants to pay for planning its exchange, so it will be ready to meet the law’s requirements.

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Health Care Decision Puts SCOTUSblog in the Spotlight

Come Thursday morning about 10 a.m. Eastern time, SCOTUSblog.com will be blogging the court's decisions in real time. On Tuesday, when court watchers thought a decision might be announced in the health care case, the blog crashed after being overwhelmed by visitors.  For tomorrow's release of the decision, the site has created a back up site to handle any technical problems. SCOTUSblog founders Tom Goldstein and Amy Howe expect at least 250,000 visitors to follow the proceedings tomorrow – a record for the site. The blog, which began as a side business for the two, is quickly becoming the “go-to” site for news about the Supreme Court. NPR looks at the origins and impact of SCOTUSblog.

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Court Good at Keeping Mum, as Health Care Decision Looms This Week

The nine U.S. Supreme Court justices and more than three dozen other people have kept quiet for more than two months about how the high court is going to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. Unlike the Congress and the executive branch, which seem to leak information "willy-nilly," the Associated Press says, "the Supreme Court, from the chief justice down to the lowliest clerk, appears to truly value silence when it comes to upcoming court opinions, big and small. No one talks, and that's the way they like it." The decision is expected to come Thursday, when the justices plan to complete their nine-month term.

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4 Down, 5 to Go for Supreme Court

With decisions ranging from broadcast indecency to union fees and corporate fines, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for the term's biggest and likely most controversial rulings to come next week. After these four rulings, five cases remain, including health care and life without parole for juvenile murders. The court will return on Monday and may schedule an additional decision day later in the week. Learn more from the National Law Journal

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Waller Explains Texas Expansion

In an interview with the Nashville Post, Waller chairman John Tishler talks about why his firm continues to turn to Austin, Texas, for new talent and new opportunities, saying that while the new office is physically in Austin, the move is about entering the Texas market. "We have targeted a wealth of opportunities in Austin for health care regulatory work" but clients will be located across the state, he said. In picking Austin for the firm’s latest venture, Tishler said the city presents "a broader range of health care opportunities" than other Texas cities, offers access to policy makers and resources at the University of Texas School of Law, and provides close proximity to Houston and San Antonio.

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Waller to Open Austin Office

The Nashville-based law firm of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis announced that it plans to open an office in Austin, Texas, and has hired Elizabeth Rogers, a partner and health care attorney in the Austin office of Vinson & Elkins, to manage it. The firm’s chairman said Waller was attracted to Austin because of its growing health care market. The Nashville Business Journal has more from the firm.

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Group Asks High Court to Allow Live Broadcast of Health Care Decisions

A coalition of news organizations is asking the Supreme Court to permit live broadcast coverage of the upcoming announcement of its historic health care decisions. In a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., the group wrote, "There is a strong interest nationwide in the Court’s opinion and any comments by a member of the Court that may accompany its announcement. Such access would allow the public to be informed of the Court’s ruling in a timely manner." The Court announced today it would be sitting on Monday and Thursday of next week to issue decisions, and several sittings are also expected the following week, at the end of which the Court is likely to adjourn for the summer. But the Court never lets it be known in advance which decisions will be issued on which days. The Court's current practice is to release the audio of oral arguments at the end of the week in which they occur, thereby limiting their news value. The Blog of Legal Times reports

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'Section Cup' Winners Named at TBA Convention

News from the Appellate Practice, Criminal Justice and Health Care Law Sections
Recipients of the 2012 Section Cup were announced recently at the Section Chairs Roundtable, kicking off the TBA Convention in Memphis. TBA President Danny Van Horn created the Section Cup to encourage service to section members. Over the past year, sections accumulated points for holding meetings and CLEs or providing new services to members. Sections of like size competed against each other for the honor. 

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Legal Aid Lawyer On the Job at Erlanger

Emily Lay has been Legal Aid of East Tennessee's full-time lawyer in Chattanooga's Erlanger Hospital for several months now, helping patients who may need legal assistance, such as a setting up a power of attorney, applying for social service benefits, working out child custody, writing living wills or obtaining protective orders for domestic violence victims. This is the first such health-law partnership at Erlanger, and Charlie McDaniel, pro bono project director for Legal Aid in Chattanooga, says the first hurdle to setting up the program was in persuading the hospital to bring in lawyers to the facility. Another challenge was to commit a full-time attorney, not just volunteers, to be in the hospital and available at a moment's notice. Read how Lay does her job, and what it takes for a partnership like this to work, in the Times Free Press.

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