Monday, April 20, 2015
Texans in Congress played a huge role in getting HR 2, the bill that repealed Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, passed into law. These leaders, and all who voted for the bill, deserve our thanks. (Here’s the list — with phone numbers to call.) We must start, of course, with Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), the primary author of the bill and the driving force for SGR repeal since he first was elected to Congress in 2003. Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate majority whip, used his mastery of Senate rules and expert negotiating to get us over the final hurdle in the Senate. Reps. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) and Gene Green (D-Houston) cosponsored the bill and kept the wheels on the bus when they threatened to fall off. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) included a provision that protects Texas’ medical liability reforms and ensures that the care standards and guidelines in federal law cannot be used to create new causes of legal action against physicians. Please take just a moment today to make some thank-you calls.
Several of medicine’s top-priority bills gained some traction in the Legislature last week. The Senate approved its $211.4 billion plan for the 2016-17 state budget, including $60 million to grow and improve graduate medical education in Texas. (See TMA’s budget priorities.) House Bill 1514 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), TMA’s bill to make it easier for physicians to identify patients who are receiving subsidies for coverage under Affordable Care Act exchange plans, won unanimous approval from the House Insurance Committee. The move to eliminate physicians’ annual $200 state occupation tax advanced when the House Appropriations Committee passed House Bill 7 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo). Thanks to this week’s TMA witnesses:
- In the House Public Health Committee, Fort Worth pediatrician Gary Floyd, MD, testified on House Bill 2602 by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), which revisits several of the Schedule II controlled substance delegation requirements from last session’s agreed-upon bill with nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
- Louise Bethea, MD, an allergist from The Woodlands, testified at the House Public Education Committee in support of House Bill 2847 by Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton), which requires schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors for school staff to use on any student who suffers an anaphylactic reaction at school.
The TMA House of Delegates meets Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2, at TexMed 2015 in Austin. The work of the house includes a contested race for TMA president-elect and several other leadership positions; more than 100 handbook reports and resolutions; the installation of Tom Garcia, MD, as the new TMA president; and the recognition of Donald W. Seldin, MD, winner of the 2015 TMA Distinguished Service Award. The complete and updated handbook is now online.
I always enjoy my meetings of The Physicians Foundation, of which I am honored to serve as president. The foundation released grants to six state medical societies to fund innovative leadership programs for physicians, students, and residents. Tailored to the environment and needs of the specific state, the grants will help prepare physicians for leadership positions within the state society and in new health care delivery systems. The foundation has been a longtime supporter of the highly successful TMA Leadership College.
Following through on the second of two major TMA victories from the 2013 legislative session, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has adopted rules establishing a standard form for all insurance and Medicaid preauthorization requests for prescription medications. Earlier this year, TDI set the standard form for medical care preauthorizations. The standard forms cover everything but Medicare, the state workers’ compensation program, and self-funded employer plans. They do away with hundreds of separate forms insurers currently make physicians’ offices use. Both rules take effect Sept. 1.
Be alert for some big announcements in the next few weeks from TMA PracticeEdge, our new physician services organization. We’re finalizing the contract details for our first clients, affiliations, and services. Learn more about TMA PracticeEdge and what it may be able to offer your practice on the website.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Congress returns from its two-week Easter recess today with some very important unfinished business on the U.S. Senate agenda. Senators left town without taking up the bill to repeal Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that the House passed March 26 by an overwhelming margin. “HR 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, is vital to Texas physicians,” TMA President Austin King wrote in a letter to Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. “Texas physicians are counting on you.” The Senate must pass the bill by tomorrow to stop the 21-percent Medicare payment cuts from kicking in. If you haven’t asked Senator Cruz to support the bill yet, please call his office at (202) 224-5922 or send an email through TMA’s Grassroots Action Center. To help counteract the campaign of disinformation about the measure, TMA published Top 10 Myths About HR 2, the SGR Repeal Bill; please share it with your skeptical colleagues.