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Thursday, July 30, 2009


Gov. Rick Perry called a special session of the Texas Legislature to start on July 1. The governor controls the agenda for any special session, and so far he has limited it to legislation to extend the life of five state agencies whose “sunset bills” failed at the end of the regular session. One of those agencies is the Texas Department of Insurance. He is also asking lawmakers to consider several issues related to financing for Texas highway projects. Already, legislators are asking the governor to add other items, such as expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage, which died late during the regular session. Follow TMA’s daily or weekly Legislative News Hotline for all the details of the session.


The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has begun sending letters to approximately 125 physicians and 75 hospitals to recover payments HHSC says were made erroneously for services provided to patients residing in Institutions of Mental Disease (IMDs). TMA’s Office of General Counsel and Division of Medical Economics have been researching the problem and are monitoring the recoupment activity. Under federal law, services provided to IMD residents between the ages of 21 and 64 are not eligible for federal matching Medicaid funding. HHSC is sending letters to physicians and hospitals seeking refunds of money paid for dates of service from 2001 to 2007. HHSC says no state law imposes a time limit on how far back the agency can reach for these recoupments. The letters say that the physician or hospital has 60 days to send a payment or proof of a prior refund. Actual recovery is scheduled to begin on Sept. 1. The amounts of the recoupment range from about $1,000 to $128,000. Physicians with financial hardships may ask the Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership to consider repayment arrangements. According to HHSC, “the provider is required to submit financials to establish the need and the terms of the repayment.”


The University of Texas System Regents appointed William L. Henrich, MD, the new president of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. An internist, Dr. Henrich had been interim president of the health science center since former president Francisco Cigarroa, MD, left to become chancellor of the UT System in January. In his service as dean of the medical school in San Antonio, Dr. Henrich worked hard to connect organized medicine with the school’s faculty, residents, and students.


TMA’s communications and lobby staff are working with county medical society to conduct town hall meetings this summer to discuss health system reform with local patients and business leaders. Tied to TMA’s “Me and My Doctor, We Know Best” campaign, the town hall meetings give physicians a chance for frank dialogue on health system reform with their patients and community leaders. The first “house call” takes place at the Denton County Courthouse on July 29. If you are interested in hosting a town hall meeting in your community, please contact Pam Udall, TMA’s director of media and public relations.


The EVPGram will take its traditional summer hiatus for the next six weeks or so. We’ll be back in mid-August in time to fill you in on all the details of the TMA Fall Conference, which is Sept. 4-5 in Austin. Of course, we’ll send you special editions on any news that breaks over the summer. Follow TMA on Twitter or join our Facebook page for ongoing coverage. Your TMA leaders and staff will still be here working on health system reform, devising new practice management programs for you, and monitoring public health issues. Many of us will travel to Baltimore in late July when our own Connie Minogue, TMA vice president for marketing, will be installed as president of the American Association of Medical Society Executives.