News from around Tennessee
Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 6:25 am
Dead patient’s mom doesn’t blame ’pill mill’ doc
WINCHESTER, Tenn. (AP) — Investigators who traced 13 fatal painkiller overdoses to a rural doctor hauled her into court in handcuffs and call her a heartless “pill mill” operator.
Dr. Elizabeth Reimers has an unlikely advocate as she fights those charges — the mother of one of the dead patients. That woman believes Reimers doled out the drugs in an attempt to help the man handle his persistent pain.
And a doctor at the emergency room that helped get a 130-count indictment against Reimers said he was troubled by the volume of prescriptions she wrote for addictive painkillers like hydrocodone, Percocet, Oxycodone and morphine. Still, he thinks she is “getting a little bit railroaded.”
Views like those — that a courtroom may not be the best place to evaluate doctor-patient relationships — pose a challenge for federal authorities targeting prescription drug abuse, which has replaced methamphetamine as the Drug Enforcement Administration’s top priority.
“Doctors are part of the problem,” agency spokesman Rusty Payne said.
“That’s when the controversy starts between the medical community, the pain management community and the law enforcement community,” he added.
TennCare enrollees could lose some benefits
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — TennCare officials say relief from a 20-year-old lawsuit is critical for eligible enrollees to maintain their medical benefits at a time when Gov. Phil Bredesen is looking to make deep budget cuts.
The state’s expanded Medicaid program was among the departments that met with the governor on Monday as he continued his budget hearings. Bredesen, who earlier this year requested 3 percent cuts, is asking each department for reductions of as much as 15 percent to take care of a shortfall of potentially $800 million this year.
TennCare director Darin Gordon says the state has asked the courts for relief from a class action lawsuit that prohibits them from annually re-evaluating about 180,000 people on TennCare who may not be eligible for coverage.
“What that leads to, is that you’re unable to remove them if they do not qualify for the program,” Gordon said. “So, we’ve asked the court to allow us to re-verify these individuals like everybody else. If they’re eligible, we will serve them.”
To meet the governor’s request, TennCare officials are looking to cut nearly $1 billion — of which about $400 million is state money. If roughly half of those under the lawsuit are found to be ineligible, Gordon said that could save as much as $200 million and prevent the state from having to cut benefits from those who are eligible.
However, Tennessee Justice Center director Gordon Bonnyman, one of the main advocates for TennCare enrollees, said the lawsuit “simply requires the state to be fair and accurate in deciding whether to cut off TennCare to disabled and elderly people.”