News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – Today the Tennessee Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed against several Hickman County medical providers because they were not given a required release that allows potential defendants to access a plaintiff’s relevant medical records before suit is filed.
Christine Stevens filed the action against a hospital, an emergency room, and a doctor following the death of her husband, Mark Stevens, who had sought treatment at the Hickman Community Hospital emergency room.
Tennessee law provides that before filing a healthcare liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must provide notice of the claim to the potential defendants and include within the notice a medical release compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 – a federal law commonly known as HIPAA – which allows the potential defendants to obtain relevant medical records from each other.
According to Justice Sharon G. Lee, who wrote for the majority, the medical release requirement provides a means for the defendants to evaluate the merits of a plaintiff’s claim by giving them early access to a plaintiff’s medical records. Finding that the plaintiff’s medical release had both failed to comply with HIPAA and failed to authorize the release of the plaintiff’s medical records to the defendants, the majority held that the plaintiff’s medical release “was woefully deficient” and dismissed her claim. Continue reading →
The Tennessee Hospital Association released a poll showing a majority of residents want expansion, reports WPLN. Nearly 60 percent of respondents to the hospital association’s poll said the state should accept federal dollars to expand it’s health insurance program for the poor as envisioned in the Affordable Care Act.
THA president Craig Becker says he’s also seen a softening among state lawmakers.
“We started with many of our legislators back in the summertime with basically a ‘hell no.’ Now we’ve moved ourselves much closer I think where they’re willing to be open to hear what we have to say.”
Becker claims some rural facilities could close. Because of cuts, he says hospitals need the hundreds of thousands of paying customers Medicaid expansion would provide.
Democrats are also now pushing for an up or down vote. They say they’re tired of waiting for Governor Bill Haslam to make a decision
— Note: News release below.
Legislation to renew three special state “assessments,” all used to collect more money for health care facilities from the federal government and sometimes called taxes, are moving quickly through the committee system with very little discussion.
All are slated to expire on June 30 unless renewed. All involve facilities paying the “coverage assessment” with the resulting revenue then being used to trigger federal government payments of about $2 for every state dollar. Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget plan anticipates all of them being renewed.
The bill imposing a $2,225 levy on each bed in a nursing home (SB430) had been previously known as a “bed tax.” This year’s bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville, changes the terminology to “assessment.” It is otherwise unchanged from current law and is projected to bring in $235 million for TennCare payments to nursing homes.
The hospital assessment (SB441) imposes a 4.52 percent levy on net patient revenues of hospitals, producing $450 million in state revenue that brings in federal matching funds of about $843 million. It is the newest of the assessments, launched in 2010 at the urging of the Tennessee Hospital Association. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker has called it a “gimmick” and has filed legislation in Congress that would phase out such programs over a 10-year period.
The bill imposing a 5.5 percent levy on gross receipts of institutions serving the mentally disabled (HB157) brings in $11.4 million in state revenue, according to legislative staff, including $5.1 million paid by the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
The latter two bills got no discussion at all in winning voice vote approval of the House Health Subcommittee last week with Rep. Mike Harrison, R-Rogersville, as sponsor. The Senate Health Committee had only brief discussion on Overbey’s bills dealing with nursing homes and hospitals before they were unanimously approved.
The nursing home levy has, in the past, been renewed for longer periods. Asked why this year’s bill only gives a one-year extension, Overbey said the idea is to put all the levies on an annual renewal basis so they can be discussed regularly as developments unfold at the federal level on health care.
“I think if you took a poll (of legislators), most of us would like to take the hospital assessment fee and vote on it every 10 years,” quipped Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson.
Several incumbent legislators — including Overbey — last year faced opponents who accused them of supporting a tax increase by voting for the assessment.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker wants an end to what he calls a “massive ‘bed tax’ gimmick” that he says states use to “bilk the federal government” to fund their Medicaid programs, reports Andy Sher. But critics warn the move would wreck programs in Tennessee and many of the other 46 states that use health-provider taxes to draw federal matching dollars for indigent care.
Tennessee’s taxes on nursing homes and health maintenance organizations and a 4.53 percent assessment on hospitals’ net patient revenues raise $837.8 million for TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program.
Under the 65 percent federal matching formula, that money draws down an estimated $1.55 billion to help fund TennCare. The program provides health care to an estimated 1.2 million low-income children, pregnant women and disabled Tennesseans.
…Corker spokeswoman Laura Herzog said in an email that as former Tennessee finance commissioner, “Sen. Corker understands why states and hospitals like this tax, especially given rising costs and the Medicaid expansion in the new health care law.”
But she said “the bed tax scheme adds to the federal government’s fiscal problems and is something both parties agree is poor public policy.”
States rely on the taxes because Medicaid is a “broken system,” she said. Corker’s plan would phase out bed taxes over 10 years and give states “more flexibility to manage their Medicaid programs, saving them and the federal government more money,” she said.
…Ending provider taxes “would clearly have such a devastating effect on TennCare,” said Gordon Bonnyman, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, a public interest law and advocacy group.
…Tennessee Hospital Association President Craig Becker flinched at Corker’s use of the word “gimmick” for the 4.52 percent assessment on hospitals’ net patient revenues.
“I think the senator was a little harsh in his use of words,” Becker said. “I don’t think it’s a sham. I think it is a way of keeping the state whole and keeping … services for the citizens of Tennessee. I know of no other way to do it.”
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who is an increasingly central character in the fiscal cliff drama, wants to end what he calls a “massive bed tax,” reports WPLN. Hospitals say without it, some could be forced to close.
This “fee” has propped up the TennCare system since 2010, producing $450 million a year. In the face of dwindling state budgets, hospitals tax themselves and get the money right back. But the accounting maneuver allows the state to draw down federal matching funds.
Corker calls it a “gimmick” that is bilking the federal government, and he’s calling for the practice to be phased out. Tennessee Hospital Association president Craig Becker says the fee is less than ideal, but he disagrees with how it’s being characterized.
“I think the senator was a little harsh on his language when he called it a scam because it’s not a whole lot different than any other assessment or tax that’s out there.”
While Senator Corker has become a vocal critic of the bed taxes, he isn’t the first. The debt reduction commission known as Simpson-Bowles also recommended elimination of the financing scheme now used in 47 states.
The gloves are off in the race for Tennessee Senate District 22, according to the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. In a direct mailer sent this week, Sen. Tim Barnes attacked Dr. Mark Green and his record with Gateway Medical Center.
The glossy, paid for by the Tennessee Democratic Party, claims that under Green’s management Gateway was the lowest-ranked hospital in the state and that Green was caught directing doctors to “cherry-pick” healthier patients to boost hospital profits.
But the claims in the mailer are based on out-of-date data and are not fair to the hospital, according to members of the hospital staff.
“He truly painted a picture that was incongruent with the current facts about Gateway Medical Center,” said William McGee, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Gateway.
The mailer cites data from a Consumer Reports article that claims Gateway was the lowest-rated hospital in the state and had a death rate higher than the national average.
But Gateway CEO Tim Puthoff said in a statement that the Consumer Reports article used old data that included only 37 of the 120 hospitals in Tennessee and Gateway’s mortality for August 2011 to July 2012 was in line with the national average.
In the statement Puthoff said he met with Barnes Friday and Barnes agreed not to mention Gateway in any further campaign communications.
LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) — Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan plans to donate his leftover campaign money to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
The Republican from the Detroit suburb of Livonia, who dropped his bid for another term earlier this month in a shocking political collapse, made the announcement in a statement Tuesday. Federal records show McCotter had roughly $193,000 in his campaign account as of March 31.
The Michigan attorney general has launched an investigation into why more than 80 percent of the signatures on McCotter’s nominating petitions were invalid. The problem developed after the five-term congressman gave up his little-noticed campaign for president and entrusted his staff to prepare his re-election paperwork.
McCotter’s district runs from the middle-class communities west of Detroit to wealthy Birmingham in Oakland County.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Sen. Douglas Henry has returned to the Legislature.
The Nashville Democrat was in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The 85-year-old lawmaker was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Tuesday for tests after he experienced high blood pressure and felt dizzy in a caucus meeting.
Henry has been a state senator since 1970. His District 21 seat represents southwestern Nashville, including some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill that puts new restrictions on doctors who perform abortions is intended to make it more difficult for women to get the procedure in Tennessee, opponents of the legislation said Thursday.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesborough would require physicians performing abortions to hold hospital privileges in either the home or adjacent county of the woman seeking an abortion. It was approved 72-24 on Thursday. Eight Democrats voted for the mostly Republican-backed proposal.
Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, was among critics who questioned why abortions would be singled out for extra restrictions on doctors, when others like tonsillectomies to eye operations would not.
Hill responded that his aim is to ensure the safety of women undergoing the procedure if there are complications.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — TennCare officials on Monday again proposed eliminating counseling services to hospice patients and their families if the state’s expanded Medicaid has to reduce spending by 5 percent, though Gov. Bill Haslam stressed that it’s his “firm hope” that the deepest cuts can be avoided.
The Republican governor has asked each agency to plan to spend 5 percent less for the upcoming budget year.
TennCare’s proposal would result in a cut of about $343 million, including ending hospice counseling services, reducing reimbursement rates to providers, cutting a $10 million grant and eliminating coverage for prescription-strength allergy medications.
“In a list of a lot of really difficult decisions, none of them really are too appealing,” said TennCare Director Darin Gordon.