Blake Farmer

A bipartisan effort to stabilize the individual health insurance markets appears to be falling apart — polarized by the politics of abortion. The effort — led by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee — was on track to be included in a broad spending bill set for votes this week.

Governor Bill Haslam is headed into the final months of his time in office, and he’s decided that combating the opioid epidemic will be his last big legislative push. Haslam started the session by endorsing a proposal that would impose stricter rules on prescribing the painkillers. Not until last week did that measure begin moving forward. It was a tougher fight than some expected.

After weeks of backroom talks, Tennessee lawmakers have landed on a compromise that could establish some of the toughest rules on opioid prescribing in the country. Legislators acknowledge they're creating headaches in the process, but they say overdose deaths call for drastic action.

The push to require Medicaid recipients to get jobs has at least some support from everyone running to be Tennessee governor — even the Democrats.

Tennessee has joined 20 Republican-led states in asking the courts to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The lawsuit filed in Texas on Monday contends that without the individual mandate, Obamacare is unconstitutional.

Vanderbilt researchers have published a study that shows opioid painkillers — particularly in their most potent forms — put patients at significantly higher risk of deadly infections. The findings were released Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Governor Bill Haslam's 10-point plan to attack the opioid epidemic announced this week puts some new focus on Tennessee's medical schools. On Wednesday, he named a 19-member commission to develop a list of related skills for the next generation of doctors.

Candidates to be Tennessee's next governor agree on the seriousness of the opioid epidemic and that the state needs a more aggressive response. But there is some conflict on how to attack a pervasive drug problem.

This week, Tennessee's Medicaid program began enforcing a limit on first-time opioid prescriptions. TennCare patients can only get enough pills for five days. Legislative leaders say similar restrictions are in the works to regulate painkiller prescribing for all Tennesseans.

A program to assist desperate parents in rural Tennessee is expanding to DeKalb and half a dozen other counties. The initiative, which is already operating in Putnam and Coffee counties, establishes a two-person support team — a care coordinator and a family support specialist, who is often the parent of a child with a mental health diagnosis.