(NASHVILLE, TN), December 20, 2011 – Two key laws sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and passed by the General Assembly will take effect January 1 as the new year begins. One measure ensures that those working in Tennessee are in the state legally, while the other, which was co-sponsored by Tracy, curbs the abuse of prescription drugs at pain clinics in Tennessee.
“Both of these news laws will have a positive impact on Tennessee,” said Senator Tracy. “The new E-Verify law has been successful in other states to help ensure that those working in Tennessee are here legally. The pain clinic law curbs the proliferation of unscrupulous operators of pain clinics, often referred to as “pill mills, a problem which has garnered much attention in our area lately.”
The E-Verify law requires businesses with over five employees to obtain a copy of a new employee’s driver’s license or utilize the E-Verify system, but provides a safe harbor for employers who use E-Verify if the worker is later found to be in the country illegally. E-Verify, an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration, allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees by entering their name and a social security number. It is free to employers in all 50 states, including Tennessee where more than 4,000 businesses have voluntarily participated in the system. The system is 97.4 percent accurate.
The new law to address prescription drug abuse requires the Department of Health, in concert with the doctors, nurses and physician assistants, to establish rules to govern the operation of clinics, including personnel, patient records, data collection and reporting, inspections, health and safety requirement and patient billing. Under the new law, the Department may deny a certificate to anyone who has committed a felony or a misdemeanor related to the distribution of illegal prescription drugs or a controlled substance. In addition, the law prescribes that the boards of medical examiners, osteopathic examination and nursing, as well as the committee on physician assistants, will regulate their own members who practice in a pain clinic, including authority to investigate complaints. The legislation also requires the presence of a medical doctor licensed to practice in Tennessee on site at least 20 percent of the clinic’s weekly total number of operating hours. Cash transactions are banned under the bill, except for insurance co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles, creating a paper trail on every transaction.
“Tennessee ranks second in the nation in regard to the overutilization of prescription pain medications, having exceeded the national average for controlled substance use for many years,” said Tracy. “I am very pleased to see both of these bills enacted into law.”