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Monday, October 27, 2008

KEEP ON VOTING EARLY

Huge numbers of Texans showed up for early voting last week, just one more sign that the lines will be real long on Election Day. Early voting for the general election runs through Friday. Why not stop at the polls on your way home tonight and cast your ballot for the party of medicine? TEXPAC has endorsed promedicine candidates (PDF) for the U.S. Congress, Texas Legislature, and the judiciary. Please encourage your friends, family, colleagues, staff, and patients to vote the party of medicine as well. Find out where you can vote early in your county.

TEXPAC PUSHING HARD FOR DR. SHELTON

If you live in House District 97, or anywhere else in Tarrant County, you’ve been receiving the cards, e-mails, and letters urging you to support Mark Shelton, MD, in his rematch run for the Texas House. More than 700 physicians and TMA Alliance members live in the already-Republican-leaning district, and their vote can put Dr. Shelton over the top in his race against a doctor-suing trial lawyer. Watch our video on the TEXPAC Web site or YouTube.

EVERY PENNY HELPS

Thanks to the Williamson County Medical Alliance for its $500 contribution to TMA’s Hurricane Ike Relief Fund. Our steering committee, chaired by House Speaker Steve Brotherton, MD, meets this week to finalize the details of our program to help physicians in the declared Hurricane Ike disaster area get their practices back open and begin seeing patients again. If you or your organization wants to help, please contact me, or see the TMA Foundation Web page.

IT’S 51-42, McCAIN

Almost 700 TMA and TMA Alliance members have responded to the TMA health care presidential poll. Please vote in our straw poll AFTER you cast the ballot that counts.

AUSTIN PHYSICIAN AT TMB NO. 2 SPOT

The Texas Medical Board (TMB) named Alan Moore, MD, an Austin pathologist, as interim medical director of the agency. The board also appointed Mari Robinson, JD, interim TMB executive director following the retirement of Donald Patrick, MD, JD. Without a physician in the No. 1 spot at the board, state law requires TMB to hire a medical director.

TMA PUSHES UNITED FOR SYNAGIS COVERAGE CHANGE

Responding to a request from TMA and the Texas Pediatric Society (TPS), United Healthcare changed its policy for covering administration of Synagis to patients at increased risk of complications of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). United began covering up to five doses, spaced a month apart, in mid-October. Previously, United paid for the drug from the beginning of the national RSV season starting Nov. 1. However, TPS data show the season starts earlier in Texas, primarily because of the state's warmer climate and its size.

EARLY VOTING STARTS TODAY

More Texans than ever have registered to vote this fall, and that means long lines on Election Day. Early voting for the general election begins today. Why not stop at the polls on your way home tonight and cast your ballot for the party of medicine? The Texas Secretary of State’s county elections office list can help you find out where you can vote early in your county. TEXPAC has endorsed promedicine candidates (PDF) for the U.S. Congress, Texas Legislature, and the judiciary. Please encourage your friends, family, colleagues, staff, and patients to vote the party of medicine as well. You can order our little, red judicial slate cards (PDF) from the TEXPAC Web site.

TMA E-RX SUMMIT SECURES JOINT COMMITMENT FOR CHANGE

More than 75 physicians, pharmacists, government officials, and technology vendors gathered at the TMA building for our first E-Prescribing Stakeholder Summit. Led by Joseph Schneider, MD, chair of TMA’s Health Information Technology Committee, the group examined what it will take to move e-prescribing forward in Texas, including needed changes in state and federal laws and regulations. Rules governing prescriptions for controlled substances and the requirement for a handwritten “brand medically necessary” notation on prescriptions are two areas ripe for consideration. Key leaders from all the sectors involved called the inaugural meeting a big success and vowed to bring the group together again.

PROP 12 BRINGS ANOTHER RATE CUT

Medical Protective announced a 6.2-percent rate reduction effective Jan. 1, 2009. It is Med Pro’s sixth rate cut in the past four years and the 25th rate cut by a Texas physician liability carrier since the passage of the 2003 lawsuit reforms. Texas physicians have seen their liability premiums reduced, on average, 27 percent.

TMA MEDICARE SEMINARS BEGIN NEXT MONTH

Medicare is rolling out its usual slew of new regulations next year, and TMA’s annual update seminar series is back to help you keep up with the changes. Our one-day programs, offered statewide, cover new coding and billing rules, the latest enrollment hassles, how to earn your Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI) bonus in 2009, and the new Medicare recovery audits. While TMA continues to fight for Medicare improvements on Capitol Hill, we are committed to giving you the tools you need to participate in the program effectively.

TMA MEMBER INDUCTED IN TEXAS HALL OF FAME

Gov. and Mrs. Rick Perry inducted Huda Zoghbi, MD, a professor in multiple disciplines at Baylor College of Medicine, into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. Dr. Zoghbi was selected for her pioneering research into brain disorders. Congratulations.

J-1 VISAS EXTENDED

President Bush signed a bill extending through March 6, 2009, the Conrad J-1 program, which allows states to request up to 30 visa waivers a year for foreign physicians to work in medically underserved areas.

Monday, October 6, 2008

TEXPAC UNVEILS 2008 SLATE

The TEXPAC Board of Directors has finished compiling our all-star list of endorsements. I wanted to give you, as a leader of Texas medicine, the first chance to download the complete file and our 2008 Election Primer from the TEXPAC Web site (PDF). The roster includes patient - and physician-friendly candidates for the Texas Legislature, U.S. Congress, and the judiciary.

IKE DISASTER FUND GROWS

Thanks to very generous donations of $500,000 from the Physicians' Foundation for Health Systems Excellence and $50,000 from the Texas Medical Liability Trust, we are closer to our $1 million goal for TMA’s Hurricane Ike Disaster Relief Program. We want to help physicians rebuild their practices and begin treating patients again as quickly as possible. If you or your organization wants to help, please contact me, or see the TMA Foundation Web page. We also are working with county societies, alliance chapters, and the TMA Medical Student Section to find housing for relocated residents and students from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

PODCAST EXPLORES PRESIDENTIAL HEALTH CARE POLITICS

The cover story in October’s Texas Medicine takes a look at the health system reform proposals of both Democratic nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain. In our latest Podcast TMA segment, American Medical Association President-Elect Jim Rohack, MD, and Roland Goertz, MD, a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians Board of Trustees, discuss how the candidates’ health platforms contrast and the prospects for major reform in the next congressional sessions. While you’re listening, cast your vote in the TMA 2008 Presidential Poll, where McCain is now leading Obama 55-38.

MORE ACEP HEROES

Last week’s EVPGram inadvertently omitted listing several other Texans named a Hero of Emergency Medicine by the American College of Emergency Physicians. They include Drs. Diana Fite of Houston, Juan Fitz of Lubbock, Raymond Fowler of Dallas, Robert Levine of Houston, Paul Pepe of Dallas, Ed Racht of Austin, Arlo Weltge of Houston, and James Williams of San Antonio. Their achievements were chronicled as part of the college’s 40th anniversary celebration.

MENTAL HEALTH PARITY NOW LAW

A provision requiring employers and health insurance companies that offer mental health benefits to provide them on par with medical benefits was included in the $700 billion financial rescue package President Bush signed last week. TMA and the AMA have been fighting congressional gridlock over mental health parity for 10 years.

REGISTER TO VOTE TODAY

In case you haven’t done it yet, today is the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 4 election. Here's an easy way to find out if you are still registered, and here’s a list of county election officials. Early voting begins just two weeks from today.