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Monday, January 28, 2008

TEXPAC-ENDORSED CANDIDATES GET VIDEO BONUS

TEXPAC and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians PAC are providing selected endorsed candidates a new kind of cutting edge grassroots support: Internet videos that tell patients exactly why the doctors are part of their campaigns. “Physicians’ PACs can’t compete in pure dollars with those who are prepared to pour $1 million into a campaign, but these videos allow us to extend the value of our endorsements in ways that matter the most – reaching the voters,” said TEXPAC Chair Manny Acosta, MD. Watch our first round of Internet endorsement videos for State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and State Reps. Vicki Truitt (R-Keller), Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin), Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) and Betty Brown (R-Terrell).

TORT REFORM SKEPTIC SEES VALUE IN THE VALLEY

Texas Monthly senior executive editor Paul Burka hasn’t always seen our side when it comes to the 2003 health care liability reforms and Proposition 12. Maybe he’s coming around. In an item in his widely read Burka’s Blog, Paul describes big changes – including more hospitals and physicians – that have come to the Rio Grande Valley: “Some readers may not want to hear this, but the medical boom, and in particular the influx of specialists, would not have been possible without tort reform.”

BIG COUNTIES HAIL NEW CHIEFS

TMA helped our three largest county medical societies install their 2008 presidents. TMA President Bill Hinchey, MD, was on hand as Manuel Quinones Jr., MD, took the reins at Bexar County Medical Society. I was in Houston that night as Tom Garcia, MD, became president of Harris County Medical Society and Guru Reddy, MD, took over at the Houston Academy of Medicine. State Sen. Kyle Janek, MD (R-Houston), was the keynote speaker. Then, Dr. Hinchey and I both travelled north as Bill Walton, MD, became the 125th president of Dallas County Medical Society. Former TMA Board Chair Dennis Factor, MD, received the Max Cole Leadership Award.

SEE YOU THIS WEEKEND AT TMA WINTER CONFERENCE

Today is the last day to register online for 2008 TMA Winter Conference, Feb. 1-2 at the Hyatt Regency in Austin. Practice viability issues top the list of discussion topics, including health care spending, tracking practice revenue performance indicators, and health insurance plan marketplace trends.

PERRY PUTS SHULKIN ON TMB

Dallas pulmonologist Allan Shulkin, MD, is the newest member of the Texas Medical Board (TMB). Gov. Rick Perry appointed the TMA member and former board member of the Dallas County Medical Society to fill a vacant spot on the TMB.

DON’T MISS A HOTEL ROOM AT TEXMED

We’ll be competing for San Antonio hotel rooms with some other big conventions when TexMed 2008 hits the Alamo City May 2-3. Don’t be left camping out on the River Walk. Make your hotel reservations today.

DON’T MISS A HOTEL ROOM AT TEXMED

We’ll be competing for San Antonio hotel rooms with some other big conventions when TexMed 2008 hits the Alamo City May 2-3. Don’t be left camping out on the River Walk. Make your hotel reservations today.

DON’T MISS A HOTEL ROOM AT TEXMED

We’ll be competing for San Antonio hotel rooms with some other big conventions when TexMed 2008 hits the Alamo City May 2-3. Don’t be left camping out on the River Walk. Make your hotel reservations today.

DON’T MISS A HOTEL ROOM AT TEXMED

We’ll be competing for San Antonio hotel rooms with some other big conventions when TexMed 2008 hits the Alamo City May 2-3. Don’t be left camping out on the River Walk. Make your hotel reservations today.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

TMA TALKS MEDICARE WITH CORNYN

Three of TMA’s senior physician leaders, our top lobbyist, and I enjoyed a frank discussion with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who is up for reelection this year. The group included TMA President Bill Hinchey, MD; Board of Trustees Chair Bruce Malone, MD; and Council on Legislation Chair Al Gros, MD. We shared with Senator Cornyn the guts of our Texas Medicare Manifesto: Congress must develop a rational Medicare physician payment system that automatically keeps up with the cost of running a practice and is backed by a stable funding source. The current stop-gap funding plan expires June 30. TMA has localized flyers in English and Spanish for you to hand out to your patients. County societies can order them from TMA Media and Public Relations.

LAWSUIT TO CHALLENGE LIABILITY CAPS

The wife of a former Dallas Cowboy who has been comatose since he underwent a surgical procedure last year reportedly will ask a federal court to overturn Texas' cap on noneconomic damages in medical liability cases. TMA and our allies will staunchly defend the caps, which have produced the results the legislature and the voters intended in 2003. That year, lawmakers passed a bill limiting to $250,000 each the noneconomic damages that could be assessed against the physicians, against the first hospital or health care facility, and against all other facilities in a case. There is no cap on economic damages. Texas voters approved Proposition 12, a constitutional amendment that ratified the legislature's authority to impose such caps. TMA, the Texas Civil Justice League, the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, and other liability reform advocates are working to build a coalition with business organizations to identify possible legislative attacks on the reforms and to develop defensive and offensive strategies for the 2009 legislative session.

PRESIDENT INSTALLS NEW LEADER, MEETS WITH MEDIA IN EL PASO

Dr. Hinchey traveled to El Paso to install David Tabor, MD, as the new president of the El Paso County Medical Society. He replaces David Palafox, MD. Drs. Hinchey, Tabor, and Palafox also met with the El Paso Times editorial board to discuss the Medicare financing mess. The editors were quite receptive to our message and asked particularly for more information about the huge overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans (PDF).

AUDIO SEMINAR EXPLAINS MEDICARE OPTIONS

Still pondering your Medicare participation for 2008? http://www.texmed.org/Template.aspx?id=6449can help you understand just how Congress' actions affected the Medicare fee schedule and what your options are. You must decide by Feb. 15.

DON’T MISS WINTER CONFERENCE DEADLINE

Jan. 28 is the last day to register online for 2008 TMA Winter Conference. Highlights include a forum on the ethics of physicians prescribing for themselves or their families, a town hall discussion with representatives of three of Texas' largest health plans, and our annual meeting of county medical society leaders. TMA councils will be looking into the future as they begin the process of updating our TMA 2010 strategic plan.

Monday, January 14, 2008

OWNERSHIP, TORT PROTECTIONS HIGH ON FORUM LIST

We ran out of room in last week’s ’Gram before we could finish summarizing the discussions from the TEXPAC Grassroots Forum in San Antonio. We can expect both Congress and the 2009 Texas Legislature to make another run at restricting physicians’ right to own hospitals and other facilities. TMA must start early to educate lawmakers on our “responsible ownership” position: The focus should be not on who owns the medical facility — a physician, a nonprofit entity, or a for-profit company — but on how that facility delivers patient care. If overutilization or deviations from quality care are the issues, legislators should address those problems regardless of ownership. Many forum participants also reinforced the need for TMA to staunchly protect the 2003 liability reforms, especially emergency room provisions. The forum was TMA’s second in a series of advocacy strategic planning conferences. We will continue to work with specialty society leaders and lobbyists to prepare and advance our positions on the issues.

SIGN ON TO THE TEXAS MEDICARE MANIFESTO

The American Medical Association estimates that Texas physicians were saved $228 million – or $4,700 per physician – by the last-minute reprieve from the 10.5-percent cut in Medicare fees that was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Unfortunately, other changes in Medicare payment calculations mean that physicians in Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Houston may see little change or small payment reductions for most services. All of this is evidence of the need for a permanent fix. We have six months to help Congress develop a rational Medicare physician payment system that automatically keeps up with the cost of running a practice and is backed by a stable funding source. TMA has localized flyers in English and Spanish for you to hand out to your patients. County societies can order them from the TMA Media and Public Relations Department.

TMA LEADERS HELP INSTALL NEW COUNTY PRESIDENTS

TMA President Bill Hinchey, MD, and President-Elect Josie Williams, MD, travelled to Amarillo and Galveston, respectively, to update local physicians on the latest news, hand out the Medicare patient flyers, and swear in a new slate of officers.

PODCAST TMA EXAMINES PRESIDENTIAL RACE

What should medicine look for in the platforms of the 2008 candidates for president? The latest Podcast TMA asks that question of a dozen TMA leaders. It also includes extended comments from U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), on whether politicians should use the carrot or the stick to achieve health care reform. Listen to the show now.

REGISTER TODAY FOR WINTER CONFERENCE

Health care spending, tracking practice revenue performance indicators, and health insurance plan marketplace trends are among the topics we’ll cover at 2008 TMA Winter Conference. See the full conference agenda and register online now.

EVPGRAM HITS THE BLOGOSPHERE

Now you can read and comment on EVPGram online.

Monday, January 7, 2008

FORUM PLOTS STRATEGIC COURSE FOR 2009

The new year’s champagne bubbles had barely subsided when more than 150 TMA and alliance members and TMA staff gathered to refine and expand our plans for the 2009 session of the Texas Legislature and beyond. Hosted by TEXPAC, the three-day Grassroots Forum sought input from our partner medical specialty societies. Unacceptable payment rates – from Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial health plans – and unsafe scope of practice incursions from numerous allied health practitioners were at the top of every participant’s lists of concerns. The group identified the TMA Interspecialty Society Committee as the best venue for resolving disputes within the family of medicine. Freshman State Reps. Susan King (R-Abilene), Jim Murphy (R-Houston), Solomon Ortiz Jr. (D-Corpus Christi), Allen Vaught (D-Dallas), and John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), shared the insights they gleaned from their first year in the Texas House. And the Renaissance Rockers – featuring TMA Trustee Carlos Cardenas, MD, on guitar – provided the entertainment. The forum was TMA’s second in a series of advocacy strategic planning conferences.

TMA LAUNCHES MEDICARE FIX PLANS

We’ve already begun the campaign to stop the 10.5-percent Medicare payment cuts now scheduled for June 30 and to win a long-term plan to replace the Sustainable Growth Rate formula with a funding scheme that keeps pace with the cost of providing care. “We can’t leave these decisions up to Congress,” U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), said to a packed house at the TEXPAC Grassroots Forum. “Health care begins and ends with doctors, and without doctors it doesn’t happen.” We are developing the “Texas Medicare Manifesto” so Congress and the public will know exactly what we want and why. Be on the lookout later this week for flyers to give to your patients and talking points to engage our senators and representatives while they are still here in Texas for the year-end recess. As Dr. Burgess said, “This requires all hands on deck. We can’t sit back and let someone else do something for us.” By the way, we expect TrailBlazer Health Enterprises, the Medicare carrier for Texas, to post the new 2008 payment schedules early this week.

DON’T MISS TMA WINTER CONFERENCE

The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice has been conducting some of the most thought-provoking research lately concerning the linkages between the amount of medical services patients receive and their health outcomes. Let one of the leading Dartmouth researchers provoke your thoughts at the 2008 TMA Winter Conference, Feb. 1-2, at the Hyatt Regency Austin. Saturday morning’s dawn duster session gives you practical advice on how to calculate, benchmark, and analyze your practice's key revenue cycle performance indicators.

TMA MEMBER TO HEAD ACCME

Eagle Lake family physician R. Russell Thomas Jr., DO, is the new chair of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. Dr. Thomas is a former member of the TMA Council on Medical Education.