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Monday, April 14, 2014

THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE DOC DATA DUMP

The release of physicians’ 2012 Medicare payment data has generated a lot of anger, stress, and confusion in the medical profession. Our phone lines have been jammed with physicians asking, “Why did this happen? Can I correct any inaccuracies? What are we doing about it?” We put out a special issue of TMA’s Action newsletter to address as many concerns as we can, but here some important answers for you. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had to comply with several federal laws when it gave the public unprecedented access to physician Medicare payments and charges for services and procedures. The CMS online database contains information on more than 880,000 physicians and other health care professionals who collectively received $77 billion in Medicare Part B payments in 2012. Organized medicine won a court victory more than 30 years ago that kept the data private. But a judge reversed it in 2013, leading to last week’s release. CMS has no process for physicians to correct errors they find in the data. The biggest problem, as TMA President Steve Brotherton, MD, pointed out in numerous media interviews, is the presentation of the raw information out of context. The data do not account for physician expenses, such as drug and medical supply acquisition costs, investments in health information technology, and other expenses associated with operating any small business. We are very concerned that this will mislead patients, the general public, and elected officials. TMA is developing some talking points you can use to answer patients’ questions and will share them with you promptly.

TMB NUMBERS POINT TO RECORD NUMBER OF NEW TEXAS PHYSICIANS

More than 5,000 physicians will apply for new Texas medical licenses in fiscal 2014 if current trends hold up, according to statistics from the Texas Medical Board (TMB). Halfway through the fiscal year, TMB has received 3,162 applications; that's running a healthy 11 percent ahead of last year’s record and projects to 5,046 applications by Aug. 31. While Texas’ booming economy and rapid population growth is certainly attracting more new physicians here every day, we’ve also proven that our landmark 2003 liability reforms have been a powerful draw. By comparison, in 2003, TMB received barely more than 2,500 license applications during the entire year. We’re poised to double that number now.

METRO COUNTIES SET MEMBERSHIP PLANS

The twin pillars of TMA’s strength are our 47,000+ members and our outstanding relationship with Texas county medical societies. We focused on combining those two assets at our semi-annual meeting with CEOs, membership staff, and field representatives of the metropolitan county societies. We looked at current membership trends, discussed our next targets for 100-percent-membership large groups and our next recruitment campaigns, and examined local market issues that affect membership. It’s always an exceptional and productive meeting.

SEMINAR OFFERS POINTERS ON CHANGES IN SUPERVISING MIDLEVEL PRACTITIONERS

One of TMA’s biggest successes in the 2013 Texas Legislature was passing a law that sets up a more collaborative, delegated practice among physicians and advanced practice nurses or physician assistants. The law firmly establishes the physician-led medical team, allows all involved to practice at their level of education and training, and places more authority and responsibility on the physician to supervise. TMA is launching a new statewide seminar series May 7 to help you make the most of the new law and comply with its requirements. We’ve also updated our publication, Nonphysician Practitioners: Hiring, Billing, and Delegation of Duties for an NPP to reflect all the changes.

TEXMED PRACTICE TRANSFORMATION TRACK PREPARES YOU FOR TOMORROW

TexMed 2014, our annual meeting in Fort Worth, May 2-3, offers more than 80 hours of continuing medical education credit — all free to members. The TMA Physician Services Organization is sponsoring a five-hour Practice Transformation Track from 8:30 am to 3 pm May 2 that you won’t want to miss. You’ll learn how to identify the risks facing your practice today and how to make plans to mitigate them, how to prepare your practice to take advantage of value-based payment trends, and how to collaborate with other independent practices to manage population health and contract for new payment models. Our guest speakers come from McKesson Coding Services, McKesson Enterprise Intelligence, and McKesson Business Performance Services.

OTTO TO LEAVE AS TMLT CHIEF

Charles R. “Chip” Ott Jr. is stepping down as Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT) president and CEO effective June 30 to dedicate more time to his family. TMLT is the largest medical liability provider in the state, and the only medical professional liability insurance provider created and exclusively endorsed by TMA. “Under Chip’s leadership, TMLT has grown even stronger by creating more ways to protect Texas doctors,” said TMLT Board Chair Arthur Evans, MD. We wish him the best.

Monday, April 7, 2014

CLOSE, BUT NO SGR CIGAR; WE'RE NOT GIVING UP

If you’re big on frustration and aggravation, then Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula is the gift that keeps on giving. As we, unfortunately, predicted correctly last week, the U.S. Congress applied yet another patch on the SGR, averted a big cut in physicians’ Medicare fees, and threw away a great opportunity to fix this mess once and for all. As TMA President Steve Brotherton, MD, said, “After an admirable bipartisan and bicameral agreement to end the farcical funding flaw that perpetually leaves doctors unsure of their ability to participate in Medicare and senior patients unsure of their access to their physicians, Congress could not find an equally collegial solution to the funding mechanism.” While we had high hopes that the momentum would be enough to carry the bill to passage this time, we’re not going to sit around and mope. Look for TMA to work with our champions — like U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), and others —to get the repeal train back on the track.