News

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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The Commerce Clause's Crucial Role in Health Care Decision

As the nation awaits the Supreme Court's decision -- expected by the end of June -- on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how that will affect this year's presidential election, constitutional scholars know there is much more at stake here than an individual election. Just how much is illustrated by the legal history of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Most scholars agree that the ACA presents a watershed, a potential breaking point with the legal framework that has undergirded our modern economy. "The expansive understanding of the Commerce Clause has been the basis of minimum wage legislation, of workplace safety legislation, of economic protections, and in fact of our civil rights laws," says Jeff Shesol, author of Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court. "The conservative legal establishment has been very open about its interest in undoing the New Deal at the constitutional level," and "this would be the first great success of the movement." National Public Radio looks at history of the Commerce Clause and how important that is in the decision on health care.

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Section Accomplishments Recognized

TBA President Danny Van Horn today recognized the work of three TBA sections by presenting them with Section Cup awards during the Section Chairs Roundtable at the TBA Annual Convention in Memphis. 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. The TBA Appellate Practice Section was named the Section Cup recipient for smaller TBA sections, with Executive Council member Buck Lewis accepting the award on behalf of the section.

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New Drug Database Law Has Critics, Supporters

Officials say a new law that requires Tennessee's doctors to use a drug-monitoring database and pharmacists to upload prescription information more often will allow state officials to determine which doctors are prescribing the most painkillers. Bill Gibbons, commissioner of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, who helped craft the bill, says he hopes the changes will make doctors more aware of the number of prescriptions they write and allow them to spot patients who are "doctor-shopping" to buy pain medication for an addiction or to resell. But some critics, including doctors, say the law puts a burden on all doctors rather than targeting the few who are careless or over-prescribe. Other critics say the law doesn't go far enough. The Times-Free Press has more

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State Gets Funds for Health Care Plan While Awaiting Court Decision

Tennessee accepted an additional $4.3 million in federal funds on Wednesday to establish a state-based health insurance exchange, bringing the total the state has received to more than $9 million. However, lawmakers adjourned their session earlier this month without passing legislation to implement an exchange where consumers can shop for health insurance. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the grant Wednesday as part of $181 million awarded to six states. "No one wants to invest a lot of money in a concept when we're not sure, that come July 1, after the Supreme Court has made its decision, whether we have to deal with it or not," Sen. Bo Watson said. The Times Free Press has the story

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Legislature Wraps Up 107th Session

The 107th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned Tuesday – the earliest adjournment since 1998 – after a flurry of action in the final days. Legislation approved and sent to the governor included:

HB 2385/SB 2247, which overhauls the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel

SB 3597/HB 3576, which prohibits state colleges and private colleges receiving more than $24 million in state funds from imposing antidiscrimination policies on religious student groups. The bill, designed to address a situation at Vanderbilt University, was vetoed by Gov. Bill Haslam today. WATE.com has more

HB 2868/SB 3005, which expands state racketeering laws to include criminal gangs, and imposes additional jail time and fines of up to $250,000 for gang members. The Times Free Press reports

SB 1325/HB 1379, which requires proof of citizenship to get state services. Learn more in the Memphis Daily News

SB 2580/HB 2725, which requires drug testing for some welfare recipients. The Tennessean reports

HB 3234/SB 2908, which authorizes referendums on whether Shelby County’s suburbs may form municipal school districts. The Memphis Daily News has more

The legislature did not act on a contentious gun issue that would have allowed employees to store weapons in vehicles parked on company lots and failed to pass a measure that would have allowed Tennessee to join an interstate compact challenging the federal health care law

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Tennessee to Share in Diabetes Company's Settlement

Diabetic supply firm AmMed Direct will pay an $18 million penalty to settle government claims that it wrongly billed Medicare for diabetes testing supplies and other products in a bait-and-switch scheme. The penalties, which also include a $2.8 million payment to a whistleblower in the long-running dispute, were revealed Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Most of the money -- $17.6 million -- will go to the U.S. government with the state of Tennessee getting $439,003 as part of the civil settlement. The Tennessean has the details

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Federalist Society Hosts Discussion on Health Care Law

The Memphis Lawyers' Chapter of the Federalist Society will present "An Overview of the Oral Arguments before the United States Supreme Court in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Cases" with Gregory G. Katsas of Jones Day – one of the attorneys who argued the case before the high court. The event will take place tomorrow (Thursday) from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Madison Hotel. Cost is $25 for society members and $30 for non-members. Lunch is included. To register contact Greg Grisham at (901) 312-9413 or greg.grisham@leitnerfirm.com.

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GOP Continues to Attack President Over Court Comments

President Barack Obama's remarks earlier this week about the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of the health care law continue to generate backlash from political opponents. In a speech today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., continued the GOP counteroffensive, telling the president to "back off" the court. "The President crossed a dangerous line this week. And anyone who cares about liberty needs to call him out on it. The independence of the Court must be defended," McConnell said. Read more on politico.com

Meanwhile, the Justice Department today made good on its promise to file a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit outlining the government's view of judicial authority to review laws enacted by Congress. The Blog of Legal Times has that story

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Health Care Forum Scheduled in Bristol

The Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., and Wellmont Health System will sponsor a panel discussion on the legal challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Monday. The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Monarch Auditorium at Bristol Regional Medical Center. A reception will follow. On Tuesday, the law school will host Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli – a key figure in the case against the law – who will meet with faculty, staff and students. For more information contact Saundra Latham at the law school at slatham@asl.edu or (276) 935-4349, Ext. 1240.

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