Preliminary arguments in TennCare case to be heard Friday

Compliance order, class action status to be determined

Judge Todd Campbell is scheduled to hear preliminary arguments Friday afternoon in the federal lawsuit filed against Tennessee's TennCare program.

Three legal advocacy groups — the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Tennessee Justice Center and the National Health Law Program — filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in July to address the program's failure to meet a number of federal requirements.

The case hinges on the requirement that Medicaid applications be processed within 40 days. If the deadline cannot be met due to extenuating circumstances, a hearing must be held. Counsel allege that certain TennCare applications have been pending for more than 140 days without a hearing.

The plaintiffs have asked the court to order TennCare's compliance and answer claims or hold hearings "with reasonable promptness." Friday's hearing will center around that request, and will also determine whether the case will move forward as a class action suit.
 
Notably, the first two federal judges to whom the case was assigned — William Haynes Jr. and Aleta Trauger — recused themselves.

Defendants Darin Gordon, director of TennCare, Larry Martin, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration and Dr. Raquel Hatter, commissioner of Human Services, originally moved for the case to be dismissed on Aug. 14 based on lack of claim and jurisdiction.

Most recently, the defendants filed on Wednesday alleging all 11 plaintiffs have now had their TennCare applications processed and are enrolled. Arguing that a class action suit cannot be held without an affected plaintiff, the defendants again moved to dismiss.

The federal government was given a deadline to weigh in on the case, and the Middle District U.S. Attorney's Office reported it was "unable to respond" within the time provided by the court but would continue to review the issues. The federal government could file a statement in favor of or in opposition to TennCare, or not at all.

To read the original complaint, click here.