Monday, December 14, 2015
The pending mergers of Aetna with Humana and Anthem with Cigna were the hot topic at last week’s meeting of the Physicians Advocacy Institute (PAI). We agreed that physicians need a coordinated effort and strategy to oppose the mergers nationally, and to provide support to state medical associations seeking to fight the mergers in the states. (TMA already submitted a formal letter opposing the Aetna-Humana merger.) PAI will coordinate efforts by TMA and eight other state societies to develop additional legal documents opposing the mergers to send to the Department of Justice. These mergers would create two “too big to fail” insurers whose combined market power would be bad for physicians and for patients. Read more in the cover story of this month’s Texas Medicine. In other action, PAI reviewed the status of a congressional measure we support to rein in the Recovery Audit Program bounty-hunter contractors (RACs). The bill is HR 2568, the Fair Medical Audits Act of 2015, by Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.).
Primary care physicians need to brace for another New Year’s pay cut. Last year, it was the expiration of the Medicare-parity payments for primary care services provided to Medicaid patients. (TMA fought to preserve those payments in the 2015 Texas Legislature, but lawmakers decided not to fund it in the final days of the session.) Now, it’s a provision in the Affordable Care Act that provided Medicare bonus payments to primary care physicians that is expiring on Dec. 31. The Primary Care Incentive Payment Program bonuses were equal to 10 percent of the Medicare-paid amount for primary care services. One family physician told TMA his 13-physician practice expects to lose $100,000 in Medicare payments next year. Read more in tomorrow’s Action newsletter.
TMA told the Third District Court of Appeals that the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners went too far, once again, in allowing chiropractors to perform acupuncture. TMA filed an amicus curiae brief asking the court to reverse a lower court’s judgment in Texas Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine v. Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners and Yvette Yarbrough. Our brief points out that the Chiropractic Act doesn’t authorize any procedures on the nervous system nor does it authorize chiropractors to perform acupuncture. The hearing in the case was Dec. 2. A decision is expected next year.
In what one media outlet described as a “trenchant letter to Congress,” TMA President Tom Garcia, MD, asked for relief from yet another “ridiculous edict from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).” Our target this time was the CMS blunder on data physicians submitted for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and value-based payment modifier (VBM) programs. Unless they file an appeal by Wednesday, Dec. 16, thousands of U.S. physicians will see Medicare payment cuts of 2 to 4 percent next year. “Our experience of just the past few months has proven that CMS is much better at generating mass confusion than it is at helping physicians care for Medicare and Medicaid patients,” Dr. Garcia wrote. “The agency’s incompetence only multiplies the burden of numerous, overly complex regulations it forces onto physicians. … We sincerely ask your assistance in stopping this ongoing government mistreatment of America’s physicians.”
You can take one step today that will triply benefit your practice. Renew your TMA membership, and don’t forget to select the “Automatic Dues Renewal” option. The three benefits:
- You join TMA for 2016, helping to keep us strong to fight for you and your patients, and give you the practice management tools you need.
- You ensure that your membership won’t lapse.
- You get a free copy of our 130-page Business Basics for Physicians publication.
All of us here at TMA wish you, your families, your staff, and your patients a very enjoyable and safe and relaxing holiday season. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanza, Fantastic Festivus, and Excellent Diwali from us to you. Here’s to all the best in 2016 — we’ll be back in your in box on Monday, Jan. 11.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Are insurance companies not offering you in-network contracts? Have you been removed from an insurance company’s network after being in-network for a long time? Are you or your patients experiencing out-of-network or balance billing issues? TMA is determined to demonstrate the cause-and-effect link between insurance company practices and these serious problems for physicians of all specialties. Help us document the specifics by sending the details to TMA’s Hassle Factor Log program. Our Balance Billing Task Force, appointed by the TMA Board of Trustees, met again Saturday at the TMA 2015 Advocacy Retreat. The group heard results of public opinion research we commissioned, discussed physicians’ opinions, and continued to plot out possible legislative responses. The task force is asking that all specialty societies be sure to attend the Interspecialty Society Committee meeting at 2016 TMA Winter Conference (Jan. 29-30 in Austin) to discuss the issue. The Balance Billing Task Force will hold an open forum at the conference to present its white paper on the issue and receive member comments as TMA prepares for the 2017 legislative session.