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Monday, February 25, 2008

AMA CATCHES HEAT FOR STANDING TOUGH

When you run with the big dogs, sometimes you get a bite taken out of your hide. That’s what happened to the American Medical Association in Washington. You may have read a story recently that inaccurately said AMA lobbyists have been frozen out of discussions with the Senate Finance Committee. With our strong encouragement, AMA took a tough stand on Medicare reform. That ruffled some feathers, and an anonymous, high-ranking congressional aide whose feathers were ruffled managed to get an ask-no-questions Capitol Hill reporter to write the story. AMA needs to keep fighting and taking tough stances for physicians. Our Texas Medicare Manifesto insists that Congress enact 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. As long as AMA works together with TMA and other states to further this goal, we all can expect to ruffle some of those sensitive Capitol Hill feathers. That’s a price we’re willing to pay.

GREAT ARTICLE ON ALLIANCE LEADER


Her hometown paper did a great job of capturing the energy and passion TMA Alliance President Mia Price puts into her volunteer job. Check it out online.

TMA CALLS FOR REVAMP OF STATE UNINSURED PLAN

Texas’ newest plan to cover a portion of the state’s huge uninsured population “as articulated is not supportable in its current form,” TMA and the Texas Hospital Association (THA) told Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins. Lewis Foxhall, MD, delivered the same message on behalf of TMA to the legislature’s committee that is overseeing the 2007 Medicaid reform bill authored by State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Lewisville). State Rep. Dianne White Delisi (R-Temple), a member of the committee and cosponsor of the Medicaid reform bill, directed Commissioner Hawkins to work with TMA and THA to revise the proposed Health Opportunity Plan. Our Select Committee on Medicaid, CHIP, and the Uninsured is already working on that.

HOW MANY DOCTORS DO WE NEED?

The latest Podcast TMA takes a look at how Texas and the nation are meeting the growing physician workforce demand. We interview Jordan Cohen, MD, president-emeritus of the American Association of Medical Colleges.

DON’T FORGET; EVPGRAM IS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE

Away from your e-mail but have Web access? You can read the latest EVPGram – and our back issues as well – on the blog.

Monday, February 18, 2008

VOTE TOMORROW FOR MEDICINE’S CANDIDATES

Early voting for the March 4 Texas primary elections begins Tuesday and runs through Feb. 29. TEXPAC has endorsed (PDF) congressional, legislative, and judicial candidates who will stand up for Texas patients and physicians. With the presidential nominations still up in the air, turnout should be huge, especially for the Democrats. Please vote early.

CATCH ’EM WHILE THEY’RE HOME

Now is the perfect time to enlist our congressional delegation in the Texas Medicare Manifesto. Our U.S. senators and representatives will be home for the next week during Congress’ Presidents’ Day recess. We urge you to make an appointment to visit them or call and deliver a strong message. Congress must enact 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 temporary reprieve from the 10-percent payment cut expires June 30. For talking points and an easy way to contact our senators and representatives, see the TMA Grassroots Action Center.

TMA CONVENES MEDICAL LIABILITY STRATEGY TEAM

I am calling together key players in Texas health care liability reform to discuss ways to expand our 2003 tort reforms and protect them from judicial and legislative attack. Later today, TMA will host a meeting that includes the Texas Medical Liability Trust, Texas Alliance for Patient Access, and Texas Civil Justice League. TMA has already joined a suit to resolve constitutional challenges to the 2003 reforms, and we expect the trial lawyers to mount several stout assaults during the 2009 legislative session.

TMB SPEEDS UP LICENSING

The Texas Medical Board (TMB) issued 672 physician licenses last week, continuing the flood of new physicians coming to Texas since the passage of our 2003 liability reforms. TMB Executive Director Donald Patrick, MD, JD, reports that the average time to process a license application is down from more than 90 days to about 67 days. When the Texas Legislature gave TMB more staff and resources – with TMA’s strong support – lawmakers also said the board should process license applications in just 51 days. We’re pleased to see TMB making good progress.

LEARN AT LUNCH ABOUT NEW WORKERS’ COMP FEES

New Texas workers’ compensation medical fee guidelines take effect on March 1. Tune in to TMA’s Feb. 20 Learn @ Lunch audio seminar to learn about the new fees, bonuses, and comp-specific codes.

TAMPER-RESISTANT MEDICAID RX PADS DEADLINE APPROACHING

Effective April 1, Medicaid will require all written prescriptions for outpatient drugs to be on tamper-resistant prescription pads. See the TMA Web site for details and a list of Texas-approved vendors.

Monday, February 11, 2008

TMA TAKES LEGAL ACTION TO PROTECT LIABILITY REFORMS

With several personal injury trial lawyers taking aim at our 2003 cap on noneconomic damages in health care liability cases, TMA decided it was time to head off this dangerous trend at the pass. We joined with a TMA-member physician, the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, and the Texas Hospital Association in a suit to resolve these constitutional challenges. “TMA will fight to keep Texas’ 2003 liability reforms,” TMA President Bill Hinchey, MD, said. “We cannot let medical lawsuit abuse ravage our state’s health care system again.” The suit follows the legal pathway the Texas Legislature set out when it enacted the reforms in 2003.

EL PASO MED SCHOOL WINS ACCREDITATION

Congratulations to the Texas Tech University medical school in El Paso; Dean Manuel de la Rosa, MD; and the entire El Paso physician community. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education approved the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine as a four-year medical school. The first medical school on the Texas-Mexico border now can begin recruiting its first class of 40 four-year students, who will enroll in fall 2009. Read more on the TMA Web site.

PODCAST TMA FEATURES TEXAS MEDICARE MANIFESTO

The latest edition of our audio digest covers all of Dr. Hinchey’s TMA Winter Conference address on our plan to save Medicare. Congress, he said, must enact “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.” Subscribe to our podcasts online.

POLL SHOWS VOTERS BACK LAWSUIT REFORM

TMA is a founding member of the Texas Civil Justice League, which recently completed a comprehensive voter opinion survey. By a 5-3 margin, voters agree that medical liability reforms have been good for Texas. And two-thirds of the respondents say they favor limits on noneconomic damages in health care lawsuits. While the results were mostly good news, the poll did uncover some potential vulnerabilities, which we will be certain to shore up before what we expect to be brutal legislative attacks from the trial lawyers in 2009 and beyond.

PAPER TELLS THE TRUTH ON PHYSICIAN RATINGS

Don’t miss the great Dallas Morning News article on the foibles of physician profiling. The reporter quotes TMA Board of Trustees Chair Bruce Malone, MD, and Travis County Medical Society President-Elect Charlotte Smith, MD, explaining some of the ridiculous problems they’ve encountered with the physician rating schemes.

TMA TESTIFIES ON EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

TMA-member physician John Carlo, MD, sat before the Texas House committees on Public Health and on Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations to discuss the state’s ability to respond to a public health emergency. Dr. Carlo is the medical director of the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services and the guest editor of the recent Texas Medicine symposium issue on pandemic influenza.

Monday, February 4, 2008

HINCHEY UNFURLS TEXAS MEDICARE MANIFESTO

“We must hold the government accountable to the promises it made to help us care for our elderly patients and Texans with disabilities,” TMA President Bill Hinchey, MD, said as he asked the 2008 TMA Winter Conference audience to sign on to the Texas Medicare Manifesto. This “public declaration of our principles, our policies, and our intentions” leads off with a demand that Congress enact “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.” Dr. Hinchey called on Texas physicians to enlist the public and their Medicare patients in the fight and to join an April 1 “March on the Hill” where we will personally deliver the message to Congress.

COUNTY LEADERS SHARE HOPES, FEARS:

A presidential election where the candidates focus on health care and the chance to build stronger relationships with young physicians and medical schools top the list of opportunities Texas county medical society leaders see for 2008. The biggest challenges? Membership (of course) and helping physicians maintain the economic viability of their practices. TMA and American Medical Association leaders joined the presidents, presidents-elect, and senior staff from 16 counties at our annual County Society Leadership Forum. In an exchange of best practices, Nueces County Medical Society discussed its call-in television show, Travis County Medical Society shared ways to engage female physicians, and Harris County Medical Society offered details of a physician survey that gave all the Houston-area health plans failing grades for patient care and paying physicians.

WHAT YOU MISSED AT TMA WINTER CONFERENCE

If practice and family obligations or the Super Bowl kept you at home last weekend, you didn’t get to hear AMA President Ron Davis, MD, outline the national plan to build a new Medicare financing system. You didn’t join your colleagues in lobbing hard questions at leaders of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, CIGNA, and UnitedHealthcare. You didn’t see leaders of all eight Texas medical schools join forces at TMA’s second Medical Education Summit. And you didn’t hear one of the authors of the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care explain why more care isn’t necessarily better care. Plan now to attend TexMed 2008, May 2-3, in San Antonio.

NOT REGISTERED TO VOTE? DO IT TODAY

TEXPAC leaders finalized their endorsements for the March 4 primaries. We’ll have the list for you next week, but today is the deadline to register to vote.

TMA GIVES PRESIDENT AN EARFUL

President Bush’s State of the Union address and draft federal budget were full of platitudes for health care and stout protections for the profits of Medicare Advantage plans. Dr. Hinchey responded both times with an eight-word message: “Read My Lips: Fix America’s Broken Medicare System.” He called on the president and Congress to do away with “double-digit, multimillion-dollar bonuses” to Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare HMOs “for simply brokering existing medical services.” Dr. Hinchey added, “Quit playing shell games with Medicare.”