About TMA Related Organizations TMA Calendar Site Map Contact Us

Monday, November 24, 2008

SURVEY REVEALS PESSIMISM, HARD TIMES

Survey results released by the Physicians’ Foundation depict widespread frustration and concern among primary care physicians nationwide, which could lead to a dramatic decrease in practicing doctors in the near future. Nearly half of those surveyed say that over the next three years they plan to reduce the number of patients they see or stop practicing entirely. The reported reasons for the widespread frustration include increased time dealing with nonclinical paperwork, difficulty receiving reimbursement, and burdensome government regulations. Nearly 12,000 physicians across the country responded to the survey. The Physicians’ Foundation was formed as part of the settlement of state medical societies’ national class-action lawsuit against some of the country’s largest health plans. As foundation president, I hope to use these results to develop policies and programs that can help save private practice and keep physicians in practice.

BOARD ADOPTS 2009 TMA BUDGET

The TMA Board of Trustees approved a $22 million plan and budget for the association. The budget will allow TMA to staunchly represent physicians and patients in 2009, but it holds the line on most new spending. In a quick one-day session, the trustees also:
  • Reviewed TMA’s agenda for the 2009 Texas Legislature;
  • Discussed the health care system reform plans floating from President-Elect Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress; and
  • Received an update on our Hurricane Ike Disaster Relief Fund.

TMA, HOSPITALS SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND

TMA President Josie Williams, MD, and other TMA leaders met with their counterparts from the Texas Hospital Association. The agenda covered common issues for the upcoming legislative session, including funding for Medicaid and graduate medical education, and defending our 2003 health care liability reforms. Also participating from the TMA board were Drs. Lyle Thorstenson, Bruce Malone, Michael Speer, Austin King, and Joe Cunningham.

AETNA CONTRIBUTES TO RELIEF PROGRAM

Many thanks to Aetna for donating $15,000 for our Hurricane Ike Disaster Relief Fund. We are moving closer to our $1 million goal and have begun approving grants for practices that incurred uninsured or nonreimbursable damage. Physicians may apply for the grants online. We are still accepting donations for the relief fund.

BLUE CROSS BILLING DISPUTE HELP AVAILABLE

As part of the settlement in physicians’ national class action lawsuit against numerous Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, physicians may submit billing disputes to a new external review board. The board can help resolve billing conflicts after you have exhausted all of the Blue Cross plan’s internal review and appeal processes. Details and all the forms you may need are available from the Physicians Advocacy Institute.

Monday, November 17, 2008

TEXANS’ LIABILITY PLAN ADOPTED

The Texas proposal to ensure that liability protection (PDF) for physicians is equal to what may be offered to drug or medical device manufacturers won unanimous approval from the American Medical Association House of Delegates. “The purpose of the resolution is to make sure that AMA policy is to stand strong for physicians,” said Beaumont orthopedic surgeon David Teuscher, MD, who helped write the resolution in response to two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases. “All we’re asking for is fair and equal treatment, and we’re standing up for the physicians of Texas and the physicians of America.” Meeting in Orlando, the AMA house moved through nearly 130 reports and resolutions in record time, closing its deliberations a day early.

ARENS HONORED BY AMA

A lifetime’s work as a teacher and patient safety advocate earned retired Houston anesthesiologist Jim Arens, MD, the AMA’s Distinguished Service Award. AMA cited his work to “dramatically reduce anesthesia-related mortality” and for his legacy as an educator. Hundreds of Texas anesthesiologists studied at his side. “Mentoring is one of the most important and satisfying rewards in life,” Dr. Arens told the AMA House of Delegates. He served 42 years as a professor and chair of anesthesiology at five premier medical schools, including The University of Texas (UT) Medical Branch at Galveston, the UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and the UT-Houston College of Medicine.

IKE RELIEF FUNDS AVAILABLE

Do you know any physicians who can’t reopen their practice after damage from Hurricane Ike? Point them towards TMA’s Hurricane Ike Disaster Relief Fund. “Grants are available if your practice incurred uninsured or nonreimbursable property damage and you do not have adequate funding to cover the damage,” said Steve Brotherton, MD, speaker of the TMA House of Delegates and chair of the relief fund. The TMA Foundation continues to accept online donations.

HOW DO 12,000 PHYSICIANS SEE THE FUTURE?

How do physicians across the country see the medical practice environment? How do you feel about the state of your profession, and that of the industry at large? What plans do you have for the future of your practice? Do you believe there are enough of you to handle an influx of more patients? The Physicians’ Foundations surveyed 12,000 physicians across the country to answer these and other vital questions. We have a national news conference scheduled for Tuesday to release the findings. Stay tuned.

HARD HATS RECOGNIZED

TMA’s Hard Hats for Little Heads program won the Fan Favorite/Best Campaign Award from the Austin Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Since TMA started the program in 1994, physicians and their families have given away 50,000 helmets to Texas children. See the TMA Web site to find out how you can help protect little heads in your community.

DON’T MISS TMA’S 2009 MEDICARE CODING UPDATE

Register online for this first-rate seminar.

Monday, November 10, 2008

TEXPAC PUTS ANOTHER DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE

As part of a bundle of state and federal wins on Election Day, TEXPAC worked hard to turn out the physician and alliance vote for Fort Worth pediatrician Mark Shelton, MD. Dr. Shelton defeated an incumbent Democratic trial lawyer (YouTube video) to win Texas House of Representatives District 97. That makes him and Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), the only two physicians – and TMA members – in the House. The only TMA member in Congress, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), announced he is running to become chair of the House Republican Policy Committee. All four of TEXPAC’s endorsed statewide candidates (PDF) (U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and three Texas Supreme Court justices) won, as did all but one of the congressional candidates we backed and most of those we supported for the Texas House and Senate. We already have begun personal outreach from physicians to the candidates we did not support so medicine can build strong relationships with these new lawmakers.

TEXANS STANDING UP FOR TEXANS AT AMA

More than 100 Texas physicians, residents, and medical students are representing patients and physicians at the 2008 American Medical Association Interim House of Delegates meeting in Orlando. Hot topics include health care system reform, physician supervision of allied health practitioners, insurance company practices, Medicare payments, physician ownership of health care facilities, tobacco control, and medical homes. Our medical liability resolution has received a strong and positive response so far. We’re going to experiment with live coverage of house debate at 3 pm Central Time today and 8 am Tuesday on Blogged Arteries. Tune in.

HINCHEY PUSHES FOR HEALTH PLAN TRANSPARENCY

In testimony before the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee, TMA Immediate Past President Bill Hinchey, MD, said health plans’ own actions and business tactics are forcing patients to incur greater out-of-pocket costs. Dr. Hinchey urged the committee to hold the plans more accountable for the accuracy of the information they report about their physician networks and to require more transparency in how they calculate “usual and customary charges” for out-of-network services. Health insurance reform – especially business practices that are easier to understand for physicians, patients, and employers – will be a centerpiece of our 2009 agenda at the Texas Legislature.

TMA TO CMS: REFORM THE GPCIS

TMA’s Council on Socioeconomics urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to adopt more fair and rational methods (PDF) for setting the Geographic Practice Cost Index (GPCI) modifiers to the Medicare physician payment system.

MEDICINE LOSES A LEADER

We mourn the death of AMA Immediate Past President Ron Davis, MD, at age 52, after a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. He was an incredible antitobacco crusader.

Monday, November 3, 2008

VOTE TOMORROW

If you missed the chance to vote early, I sincerely hope you’ll brave the lines and cast your ballot on Election Day. If you’re in the profession of medicine, you’re in the business of politics. 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. And Tuesday is your last chance to vote in TMA’s health care presidential straw poll.

TMA’S IKE RELIEF FUND TAKING APPLICATIONS

Did Hurricane Ike do more damage to your practice than you or your insurance can cover? TMA is now accepting applications for our Hurricane Ike Disaster Relief Fund. “The program’s purpose is to reestablish the delivery of medical care to the hardest-hit areas of Texas,” said TMA House Speaker Steve Brotherton, MD, chair of the relief fund.

TEXANS BRING LIABILITY RESOLUTION TO AMA

Courts, Congress, and state legislatures shouldn’t grant pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers immunity from liability simply because their products were used according to Federal Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, and TMA says the American Medical Association (AMA) needs to get involved. “Physicians may become not simply the ‘deep pocket,’ but quite likely the ‘only pocket’ against whom patients who are injured by said drugs or devices may seek redress,” says a resolution the Texas Delegation is bringing to the AMA House of Delegates meeting next week in Orlando. The resolution also calls on AMA to support liability protections for “physicians who use FDA-approved devices and pharmaceuticals in a reasonable and prudent manner.” As usual, we will report from the AMA meeting on Blogged Arteries and Twitter.

PERRY NAMES GASTROENTEROLOGIST TO TMB

George Willeford III, MD, of Austin, is the newest member of the Texas Medical Board. Gov. Rick Perry appointed him for a term to end in 2011.

IT’S OFFICIAL; MEDICARE PAYMENTS TO GO UP 1.1 PERCENT NEXT YEAR

Medicare posted the notice of new payment rates for 2009. As part of the big congressional battle we won this summer, payments will rise 1.1 percent – rather than drop the scheduled 5.4 percent. Physicians also can earn bonuses of 2 percent each for using electronic prescribing and for participating in the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI). TMA has tools to help you integrate both e-prescribing and PQRI into your practice. But we also have our work cut out for us. If Congress doesn’t rewrite the Medicare financing schema this year, payments rates will plummet by more than 20 percent in 2010. Our updated Texas Medicare Manifesto explains TMA’s principles for fixing this ever-worsening dilemma.

FIRST HCNN SAFETY ALERT SENT

Did you hear about the FDA’s safety alert on fluoroquinolones? You already have received an e-mail if you have signed up for the free Health Care Notification Network through TMA. It will probably take a month or so if you’re waiting for the paper alert to arrive in the mail.