The Weekender: ‘Surprise bill’ protection, newspaper losses hurt muni financings + $1m in student loans

Keep at it. Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash

‘The Weekender’ spotlights what you might have missed on BirdDog and why a few headlines from elsewhere matter for Tennessee.



New: Virtual reality will, probably, come to a clinician near you—raising questions about its uses and ‘how to be human with it’

I’m no gamer, but I was giddy about my VR experience. There’s a growing group of VR evangelists trying to bring the headsets into mainstream medicine. Read a companion piece in the Nashville Post .


State officials, looking for ways to develop a workforce that can ‘bob, weave, and adjust,’ push to forge apprenticeship network

Workforce development is the ‘it’ issue. People in the prime of their career, from their 30s to 50s, are finding that advances in technology and automation mean there’s no longer a straightforward career path.
“This is going to happen more and more going forward. We have to be aware of what’s happening,” said Burns Phillips, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. “Unfortunately it’s easier to identify what won’t be there than what will.”


VC and growth equity investors on how to get their attention: Be different, be smart




1. Consumers would get protection from surprise ER bills under measure OK’d by Missouri lawmakers

Samantha Liss, St. Louis Post Dispatch

A new legal measure out of Missouri’s legislature aims to help block people from getting hit with so-called “surprise bills” from trips to hospital emergency rooms.  Patients get surprise bills when they see an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility.

The bill does not extend to in-patient settings beyond the emergency room.

Tennessee’s state legislature convened a task force on surprise billing —also known as balance billing — in 2017 but nothing formal came from that.

Missouri, on the other hand, saw insurer giant Anthem launch a new payment structure for emergency room visits under which it wouldn’t pay for some visits that it deemed non-emergency. 


2. ‘It’s worse than murder’: how rural America became a hospital desert

Michael Graff, The Guardian

This is a detailed portrait of communities in Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina that have been hit by hospital closures.

It’s a story that will ring familiar to people who live in rural Tennessee communities.


3. Freeman Webb Buys the Nashville Scene, the Nashville Post and Nfocus

Scene Staff, Nashville Scene

Real estate developer Freeman Webb, co-headed by former Nashville mayoral hopeful Bill Freeman, bought the publications from SouthComm.

The publications saw a substantial staff cut last year, including the loss of Scene editor Steve Cavendish.

Layoffs, which have routinely hit The Tennessean and its affiliates, have shrunk the Nashville area’s press corps.

A new hyper-local site, Rover, covering Green Hills and Belle Meade launched in the last month. It’s owned by American Hometown Publishing, which is a portfolio company of Nashville-based private equity shop West End Holdings. Residents in those neighborhoods will get a free monthly Rover newspaper in the mail.

Local news is taking a beating in cities and towns around the country — cuts surface nearly every week. Gov. Bill Haslam is concerned about the future of media in Tennessee, saying “it is critical to me that people have (local news). It is scary to me how little people know. Fewer and fewer get it from local sources.”

The fall-out from the death of local newspapers extends into the land of municipal bonds, according to a recent study published by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.

The researchers found that “municipal borrowing costs increase 5 to 11 basis points in the long run.” The authors note that paper closures, which are not equally replaced by online sites, are “associated with increased government inefficiencies, including higher likelihoods of costly advance refundings and negotiated issues, and higher government wages, employees, and tax revenues.” Read the research

Per Poynter: This week’s layoffs hit Hearst publications San Antonio Express and the Houston Chronicle. The Boston Globe announced a new round of buyouts and Cox Media Group announced it will close most of its college sports sites, including SEC Country.


4. 187 Things the blockchain is supposed to fix

Erin Griffith, Wired

Basically everything it seems, ranging from creating a car-sharing platform to the vault of patient data that no one can access, is supposed to be fixed blockchain.

The list has entries from uses cases that are probably ripe for blockchain innovation to issues —including human suffering — that probably won’t ever get fixed, especially from a digital ledger system.

The list borders on absurd, but so is the hype around blockchain right now, which is described as the “wild west” by folks around Nashville who are looking for genuine uses in health care. Note: not everything needs a blockchain. Some business solutions need a database instead.

Interested in blockchain? Then checkout the Nashville Blockchain Meetup.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is hosting an investor town hall in Atlanta on June 13 that will include a session on “Bitcoin & ICOs,” per law firm Mayer Brown’s Free Writings + Perspectives blog.


5. Mike Meru has $1 million in student loans. How did that happen?

Josh Mitchell, The Wall Street Journal

There are 101 people in the U.S. who owe a minimum of $1 million in federal student loans. That’s up from 14 people five years ago.

The piece chronicles how Mike Meru, an orthodontist, arrived at the point where he now accrues $130 in interest every day.

*Paging Dave Ramsey.*

Student loans are such a burden that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York points to it as a reason behind declining rates of homeownership for people aged 28 to 30 over an eight-year period.