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Monday, May 11, 2015

Contact Your Lawmakers on Medicine’s State Budget Priorities


Close to 100 physicians, residents, medical students, and TMA Alliance members came to Austin to participate in TMA’s First Tuesdays at the Capitol. The 2016-17 state budget was the big topic of conversation. Now it’s your turn to weigh in on medicine’s funding priorities. Look for a TMA action alert today asking you to call your representative and senator. Tell them you want better Medicaid payments for primary care, more graduate medical education slots for Texas residents, a stronger public health defense system, better wellness services for low-income women, and better mental health care. We expect budget negotiators to finish up their work in the coming week. Here’s an update on the status of some of our other legislative priorities:
  • We expect the Senate Finance Committee today to make some important tax decisions, including whether to back repeal of the $200 annual occupation tax on some 400,000 professionals, including physicians. If your senator is on the committee, please call and urge the panel to include the occupation tax repeal in its version of House Bill 7.
  • The House of Representatives Friday gave preliminary approval to House Bill 1514 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville). It would help physicians’ offices easily identify patients who are eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s 90-day grace period.
  • Two TMA-backed vaccination bills won final approval in the House last week despite the full-court press antivaccine groups put on to spread misinformation about them.
  • The Senate State Affairs Committee heard testimony from TMA and others on House Bill 80, which would impose a statewide ban on texting or talking on handheld phones while driving.

Congressman Poe Files Bill to Kill ICD-10


It looks like another case of the big guys versus the little guys in health care. Recent reports show that big insurance, big hospitals, and big health care systems believe they’re ready for the Oct. 1 conversion to the ICD-10 coding system. Many private physicians’ offices are not. U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Houston) seemed to be listening when the TMA House of Delegates voted to urge Congress to “permanently abandon” implementation of ICD-10. He filed HR 2126, the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2015, to prohibit the federal government from requiring the medical community to comply with ICD-10. “The new ICD-10 codes will not make one patient healthier,” Representative Poe said. “What it will do is put an unnecessary strain on the medical community who should be focused on treating patients, not implementing a whole new bureaucratic language.” TMA obviously supports the bill.

“The Personal Political Nature Of Medical Care” — My Latest in Forbes.com


It’s not just ICD-10 that’s overwhelming private physician practices. The avalanche of federal regulations — like meaningful use, PQRS, and the thousands of pages of federal rules — gets in the way of doctors caring for patients. Large organizations, Physicians Foundation CEO Tim Norbeck and I write in our latest post on Forbes.com, are much more able to find resources they can waste on compliance with these onerous federal requirements. “Just as overzealous government regulations are forcing community banking out of business by creating even more ‘too big to fail’ banking systems, private practice is being forced out of business, thus creating even larger, cost-ineffective health care giants,” we wrote. On a related note, I want to let you know that I am stepping down from my post as president of The Physicians Foundation after nine years at the helm. Walker Ray, MD, of Georgia — a man I have grown to trust and admire — is the new president. I will continue my work on the board of the foundation, working to direct research and funding toward projects that can benefit practicing physicians and their patients.

TMA Foundation Elects New Officers


Congratulations to Deborah Fuller, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Dallas, who was elected the new president of the TMA Foundation (TMAF), succeeding Sealy Massingill, MD, of Fort Worth. Other new TMAF officers are Carl Trusler, MD, of Abilene, vice president; Mary Love (Bitsy) Henderson of Austin, secretary; James A. Prentice, MD, of Austin, treasurer; and former TMA Alliance President D’Anna Wick of Tyler, executive committee member-at-large.

TMA Hosts School of Public Health Graduation


TMA invited The University of Texas School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus to conduct its commencement exercises in the Thompson Auditorium at the TMA building. We have a very good relationship with the school, whose research focuses on child and adolescent health and tobacco regulation. Regional Dean Cheryl Perry, PhD, is a former member of the TMAF Board of Trustees.

Lawmakers Honor the Father of Hard Hats for Little Heads

The Texas House of Representatives officially recognized Houston anesthesiologist Larry Driver, MD, whose brainchild is a TMA program that has given away 200,000 bicycle helmets over 20 years. Representative Sheffield, a TMA member who has sponsored several helmet giveaway events, made the presentation, which declared April 30 as Hard Hats for Little Heads Day.

Hail Dr. Tom Garcia, Our New Leader


Alfredo Tomas Garcia III, MD, took the oath of office as TMA’s 150th president, pledging to defend the patient-physician relationship. “We are not ‘providers,’ ” the Houston cardiologist told the House of Delegates. “We are healers. We are physicians.” Patty Loose of Austin became the 98th president of the TMA Alliance. “The alliance is an army of volunteers who are dedicated to helping the family of medicine,” she said. “We married it. In one form or another we committed ourselves to you and to the practice of medicine.” The house gave rousing rounds of farewell applause to outgoing TMA President Austin King, MD, and departing Alliance President Angela Donahue.