Federal judge dismisses 14-year-old TennCare suit - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Federal judge dismisses 14-year-old TennCare suit

By TRAVIS LOLLER
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a long-running lawsuit over medical and dental treatment for the 750,000 children on TennCare, more than a third of all children in the state.

The class-action suit filed in 1998 by the Tennessee Justice Center claimed that children in the program weren't getting proper care, in violation of federal rules governing the state's version of Medicaid. Those rules require states to provide early and periodic screening as well as diagnostic and treatment services, called EPSDT.

The case, known as John B., for 1 of the plaintiffs, was settled shortly afterward with a consent decree outlining requirements the state had to follow.

Among other things, the state agreed to make sure that 80% of the children on TennCare got regular checkups and medical and dental care. It also agreed to advertise its services and ensure there were enough doctors to treat children.

The state also had to guarantee that 100% of children in its custody got regular checkups and medical care.

State lawyers sought to have the consent decree dismissed in 2006, arguing that it was no longer necessary. Lawyers for some of the children disagreed, and the case stalled through years of appeals, disagreements and allegations of improper behavior by judges.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman Jr. took over and vowed a speedy resolution.

Following extensive briefing and a monthlong hearing, Wiseman ruled that the state is in substantial compliance with the terms of the consent decree. He vacated the decree and dismissed the case.

"The Tennessee Justice Center is commended for initiating and pursuing this case over the years," the ruling concludes. "The Consent Decree has clearly served its purpose well in bringing about a level of service to the class members that is demonstrative of the compassion that is characteristic of the State of Tennessee and fully compliant with the EPSDT law and regulations."

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