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Monday, March 8, 2010

Tennesseans Sue State Over Budget Cuts
2 sue over health cuts
They want state to pay for home treatment
By Clay Carey • THE TENNESSEAN • March 5, 2010

Two Tennessee men with severe disabilities have sued the state's TennCare program over cuts in home health care that could force them into nursing homes.

Justin Cochran, 27, and Glen Barnhill, 49, say in the federal lawsuit that the state violated the Americans with Disabilities act by cutting off their access to home-based nursing.

Both men are seeking a court order requiring the state to pay for them to get treatment at home, not in a nursing home.

This year, TennCare is launching a new program called CHOICES designed to give people the opportunity to get long-term care in their homes rather than in a nursing home. But to qualify, the cost of home care can't be more than the cost of a nursing home, TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said.


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According to their lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, the state contends it is less costly to provide Cochran and Barnhill daily, around-the-clock care in nursing homes, so TennCare would not cover the cost of their in-home care.

"For both of them, it would be an extraordinary loss of independence," said Katie Evans, an attorney representing Cochran and Barnhill. She said both men are able to live in their homes, with the help of caregivers.

"It would be extremely damaging to their mental health as well as their physical health if they were to be forced into a nursing home," Evans said.

Gunderson and a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Attorney General's office, which represents the state in court, declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.

Cochran, who lives in a Knoxville apartment, has exhausted his administrative appeals, the lawsuit says. Five years ago he suffered a spinal injury that left him partially quadriplegic and dependant upon a ventilator.

Barnhill, who was left partially quadriplegic after a shooting in 1994, is awaiting an administrative hearing. He is getting treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Before his hospitalization, he lived independently, with help from caregivers paid by TennCare.

According to court documents, Barnhill told a clinical psychologist that he had a bad experience in a nursing home before, and he fears he would die if he were to be placed in a nursing home again.

Contact Clay Carey at 615-726-5933 or

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