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Monday, May 24, 2010

CONGRESS HAS THREE-YEAR SGR FIX IN THE WORKS

Democratic leaders in Congress are working up a three-year deal to address the looming 21-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare payment rates. The third Band-Aid of 2010 expires June 1. Under a deal crafted by House Ways and Means Committee Chair Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), payments would increase by 1.3 percent for the remainder of 2010. In 2011, the proposal adds an additional 1 percent. The updates for 2012 and 2013 would be tied to the gross domestic product (GDP). For evaluation and management codes, the change would be GDP plus 2 percent; for all other services it would be GDP plus 1 percent. After 2013, the payment formula would revert to the current sustainable growth rate system, so physicians once again would face drastic cuts — probably in the 30- to 33- percent range — unless Congress acts again in the future. The bill is expected to be considered by the House early this week. As always, it seems they are running down to the wire to get this done before the Memorial Day recess. The House probably has until midweek to pass it, which it is expected to do. Senate action would follow late in the week. Presumably.

TMA'S "STOP THE MEDICARE MELTDOWN" PETITION DRIVE BRINGS PUBLIC AWARENESS TO SGR

Even if Congress enacts a three-year SGR fix this weekend, TMA and our 50 state medical society partners continue to push for signatures on our petition asking Congress for a permanent revision to the Medicare payment formula. As one prominent editorial stated last week, “Medicare is a lifeline for many Texas seniors. They have counted on it to be there for them in their time of need. But with physicians fleeing from the program, this security net is fraying badly. It must be fixed.” We have nearly 100,000 signatures on file already. If you haven’t yet, please sign the petition today. It takes about 10 seconds of your time. After you sign it, ask your friends, family, and neighbors to sign it until you get 10 signatures or more.

HEALTH REFORM SCHOOL: DON'T CALL US, WE'LL CALL YOU

We know it’s a new concept, so we’re not surprised that our tele-town hall meeting on health system reform is raising some questions. There’s no phone number for you to call. We will call you Thursday night. Expect your home phone to ring shortly before 8 pm Central Time. (Don’t worry, we’re protecting the privacy of your phone number.) Once we call you, you’ll have the choice to hang up or stay on the call. Stay on the line if you want to listen to TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, and physician and staff experts explain how your practice can “survive and thrive in the new health reform landscape.” We call it TMA’s Health Reform School. Join more than 20,000 of your colleagues in the broadcast. Ask questions. You also can use your computer to participate in the conference via a live web broadcast.

TMA TO HOST TWO-DAY LOOK AT THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE

The CEOs of 40 state medical societies gather at the TMA building today for a two-day conference on the future of health care and how organized medicine can best serve our members in this tumultuous environment. University of Virginia Associate Professor Jeff Goldsmith, a noted health care futurist, will deliver the keynote address. Topics on the agenda include organizational evolution, cultural changes within physician employment, staying sustainable, and creating value in membership. We’ll have a complete report in next week’s EVPGram.

WHAT DO YOU THINK BELONGS IN TMA'S FUTURE?

The TMA Board of Trustees will do some futures preparation of its own at our annual midsummer strategic planning session. We’ve invited Texas health care leaders from inside and outside of TMA to help us understand the forces that are shaping the new health care landscape. As always, our goal is to position TMA so we can best meet your needs today as well as five and 10 years down the line. Have some ideas on what the trustees need to cover? Send them my way.

AMA, OTHERS SUE TO STOP "RED FLAGS RULE"

Physician groups from around the country filed suit in federal court to prevent the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from extending identity theft regulations to physicians. Led by the American Medical Association, the complaint (PDF) alleges that the FTC’s application of its “red flags rule” to physicians is “arbitrary, capricious and contrary to the law.” The rule says physicians who regularly bill their patients for services (including billing for copayments and coinsurance) are creditors and must develop and implement written identity theft prevention programs for their practices. The programs must identify and respond to patterns, practices, or specific activities — known as “red flags” — that could indicate identity theft. The Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies developed and approved the filing of this case. TMA is a founding member of the Litigation Center, and TMA General Counsel Rocky Wilcox is chair of the executive committee.

Monday, May 17, 2010

LISTEN FOR CALL FROM TMA'S HEALTH REFORM SCHOOL

Have questions about what the new health reform law means for your practice and your patients? Plan on being near the telephone at 8 pm (7 pm Mountain Time) on May 27. You’ll be hearing from us when we reach out to invite you to join TMA’s free Health Reform School. Moderated by TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, the hour-long tele-town hall meeting will feature physicians and TMA staff experts with information on how your practice can “survive and thrive in the new health reform landscape.” When the teleconference begins, you’ll get a telephone call. When you answer, you’ll hear a message from Dr. Bailey inviting you to remain on the phone to participate. If you have a question, just press 0 on the telephone keypad, and you’ll be entered in the queue to ask it. You also can use your computer to participate in the conference via a live web broadcast. Click on the link at 8 pm May 27, enter your information, and press OK.

MORE THAN 80,000 SIGN PETITION TO STOP THE MEDICARE MELTDOWN

TMA’s nationwide petition asking Congress to rewrite the Medicare payment formula flew past the 80,000-signature mark over the weekend. But we still have a long way to go. The next Medicare Meltdown date is June 1, when physicians’ payments once again will plummet by 21 percent. Congress thinks you don’t care. Congress thinks your patients don’t care. We need to prove Congress wrong. If you haven’t yet, please sign the petition today. It takes about 10 seconds of your time. After you sign it, ask your friends, family, and neighbors to sign it until you get 10 signatures or more. If you belong to civic groups, take the petition with you to meetings. We must get 1 million signatures by May 31. If you want hard copies of the petition, call Pam Udall at TMA at (800) 880-1300, ext. 1382, or download one from the TMA website (PDF). Note: Due to HIPAA regulations, we recommend that you not collect signatures directly from your patients nor use patient lists to disseminate this information without first having a HIPAA-compliant patient authorization to do so. You can post this flyer (PDF) in your waiting room.

LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS ZERO IN ON HEALTH REFORM IN TEXAS

The 2011 Texas Legislature won’t convene for eight more months, but your representatives and senators already are preparing for how the state will respond to the new federal health reform law. So is TMA. It’s our goal to make sure that Texans decide what health reform will look like in Texas. Council on Legislation Chair Dan McCoy, MD, led a host of TMA leaders who testified before legislative committees last week in hearings covering physician employment, scope of practice, Medicaid expansion, health information technology, the Texas Medical Board, patient privacy, and many more issues. Our witnesses included TMA House of Delegates Vice Speaker Cliff Moy, MD; John Holcomb, MD, chair of TMA’s Select Committee on Medicaid, CHIP, and the Uninsured; and Houston pediatric rheumatologist Robert Warren, MD.

ARE YOU READY FOR THE RECOVERY AUDIT CONTRACTORS?

Do you know how to make sure your practice isn’t bait for Medicare’s Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs)? Do you know what to do if the RAC comes knocking on your door? Watch TMA’s hour-long RAC webinar at your own convenience to get the answers, earn a one-hour continuing medical education credit in ethics/professional responsibility, and begin to qualify for a 3-percent discount on your Texas Medical Liability Trust insurance premiums.

Monday, May 10, 2010

SIGN THE MEDICARE MELTDOWN PETITION AND - GET 10 MORE SIGNATURES

Have you signed the Stop the Medicare Meltdown petition yet? Have you asked your friends, family, and neighbors to sign it? If not, please do so today. Watch this short video from TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, and share it with your colleagues. During the next three weeks, Congress again will debate the fate of the faulty payment formula Medicare uses to pay you. Act now and sign the petition. Let Congress know you and your patients are watching its every action and care deeply about this issue. Congress members keep telling us that physicians don’t care because they never hear from you. Let’s prove to Congress that physicians and patients DO care. TMA is asking every physician to sign the petition. After you sign it, ask your friends, family, and neighbors to sign it until you get 10 signatures or more. If you belong to civic groups, take the petition with you to meetings. We must get 1 million signatures by May 31. If you want hard copies of the petition, call Pam Udall at TMA (800) 880-1300, ext. 1382, or download one from the TMA website (PDF). Note: Due to HIPAA regulations, we recommend that you not collect signatures directly from your patients nor use patient lists to disseminate this information without first having a HIPAA-compliant patient authorization to do so. You can post this flyer (PDF) in your waiting room.

ELECTION GROUNDHOG SEES HIS SHADOW; SPRING ELECTION SEASON WILL CONTINUE

Saturday’s elections brought good news for TEXPAC-endorsed candidates and family of medicine members seeking office. But it’s not over. In the special election in State Senate District 22, former Sen. David Sibley led the balloting but didn’t win a majority. He is in a runoff on a date to be set by Gov. Rick Perry. TMA Alliance member Julie Cowan made it into the runoff in a race for the Austin Independent School District (ISD) Board of Trustees. And in the Rio Grande Valley, TEXPAC Board member Noe Oliveira, MD, won a seat on the Sharyland ISD Board of Trustees.

DONORS MAKE TMA MINORITY SCHOLARSHIPS POSSIBLE

Nine promising minority college students planning to enter a Texas medical school this fall each received a $5,000 scholarship from TMA at TexMed 2010. I want to personally thank the TMA Foundation donors who made these scholarships possible:
  • Wendell D. Daniels, MD, in memory of Welton Brown;
  • Dr. Donald and Mrs. Doris A. Johnson;
  • Dr. and Mrs. Mark J. Kubala;
  • Dr. James T. and Mrs. Cecilia S. Norwood;
  • Dr. and Mrs. Jim and Charli Rohack;
  • Catherine L. Scholl, MD;
  • The Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Hidalgo-Starr McLennan, and Travis county medical societies;
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas;
  • H-E-B;
    The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth;
  • The Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation; and
  • Many more generous Texas physicians and their families.

TMA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM WINS FOUR IABC BRONZE QUILL AWARDS

Congratulations to your hard-working team of communications and marketing professionals. TMA won four Bronze Quill awards from the International Association of Business Communicators. A national team of judges evaluates the contest entries based on whether they met clearly stated objectives, show originality, and demonstrate results based on measured outcomes. Our winners:
  • TMA’s 2009 House Calls program, where physicians and patients met at public forums in 17 Texas cities to share their hopes and concerns for health system reform;
  • Our Hard Hats for Little Heads program, which provides bicycle helmets for young Texans;
  • The Be Wise — ImmunizeSM program, which educates Texans on the importance and safety of vaccinations and supports community immunization collaboratives; and
  • Our marketing opportunities campaign, which shows quality exhibitors, advertisers, and sponsors how to market their products and services through TMA publications and events.

Be — Wise Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association.

Monday, May 3, 2010

NEW TMA PRESIDENT SUE BAILEY, MD, PROMISES TO "TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CHANGE"

TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, took office Saturday at a critical juncture in American medicine. She pledged to lead TMA in a campaign to “take advantage of change” brought about by the new health reform law. “We will use the health system reform bill as a catalyst to help us identify what needs to be done on Capitol Hill, in Austin, and in our own offices to make sure our patients have access to excellent care,” Dr. Bailey said. “We will use the health system reform bill as a catalyst to make sure that our practices stay viable. We will use the health system reform bill as a catalyst to make sure physicians have the autonomy to make decisions that are in our patients’ best interests.” Joining Dr. Bailey in the “all-Tarrant County” installation was new TMA Alliance President Doris Johnson of Roanoke. “I see opportunities for growth and even greater service to Texas and can’t wait to get started,” Mrs. Johnson said.

DR. MALONE CHOSEN TMA PRESIDENT-ELECT

The TMA House of Delegates unanimously chose Austin orthopedic surgeon Bruce Malone, MD, as the association’s president-elect. He will take office at TexMed 2011 in Houston next spring. “My focus will be to protect the patient-physician relationship and strengthen the viability of Texas physicians’ practices in this era of health care reform,” Dr. Malone said. In other elections:
  • The house reelected House Speaker Steve Brotherton, MD, of Fort Worth and Vice Speaker Cliff Moy, MD, of Austin.
  • Delegates reelected Tom Garcia, MD, of Houston to the TMA Board of Trustees, and elected new trustees Doug Curran, MD, of Athens and David Teuscher, MD, of Beaumont. The new resident member of the board is Travis Bias, MD, of Houston, and the new student member is Gavin Roddy from Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. The board later chose Carolyn Evans, MD, of Dallas as its chair; Dr. Garcia as vice chair; Dr. Curran as secretary; and Carlos Cardenas, MD, of McAllen and Lewis Foxhall, MD, of Houston as members of the executive committee.
  • The house chose Brad Butler, MD, of Longview and Michael Ragain, MD, of Lubbock as the newest physicians on the Texas Delegation to the American Medical Association. The Resident and Fellow Section chose Bret Beavers, MD, of Fort Worth, and the Medical Student Section selected Stephanie Howe of Houston. The house also reelected 15 members of the delegation.
  • The new president of the TMA 50 Year Club is Larry Stone, MD, of Austin.
    The TMA Alliance chose Bridget McKeever of Corpus Christi as its president-elect.

DR. HOMER WINS TMA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD

Not only has Ladon Homer, MD, of Fort Worth held almost every key leadership position in TMA, TEXPAC, the Tarrant County Medical Society, and the Texas Society of Pathologists, but also he fathered two active TMA physician members and married a lady who went on to be president of both the TMA Alliance and the AMA Alliance. For all of that dedication and more, TMA gave Dr. Homer the Distinguished Service Award, our highest honor. Dr. Homer told the house the award was one of the most wonderful he had ever received. He cited the role his wife, Mary Ann, played in his professional life. “I want you all to know in many ways this a joint award, and today we are both very proud to accept this award,” Dr. Homer told the House of Delegates. In other awards:
  • Five members of the Texas family of medicine who serve in the U.S. Congress and Texas Legislature were the inaugural winners of our Champions of Medicine Award. They are U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville); State Sen. Bob Deuell, MD (R-Greenville); and State Reps. Mark Shelton, MD (R-Fort Worth); John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond); and Susan King (R-Abilene). Mrs. King is a TMA Alliance member. Watch their video interviews.
  • The Young Physician Section gave its Young at Heart Award to Glen Johnson, MD, and the Michael O’Malley, MD, Memorial Scholarship to Ashley Murray from Groom High School.
  • The Resident and Fellow Section gave the J.T. “Lamar” McNew, MD, Award to Kyle Morrow, MD.
  • The Medical Student Section gave the C. Frank Webber, MD, Award to Joel Dunnington, MD; named The University of Texas Medical School at Houston the chapter of the year; and gave the Student of the Year Award to Maryam Shambayati of Fort Worth.

HOUSE CALLS FOR TMA TO TAKE NATIONAL LEADERSHIP ROLE

The House of Delegates passed a resolution that TMA “continue to work with other medical organizations, with similar goals, to advocate for patients and physicians on a national level.” The house passed resolutions that support:
  • Changes to Medicare locality boundaries so payments reflect differences in local economic conditions;
  • Increased funding of mental illness and substance abuse treatment;
  • Higher pay for Medicaid physicians who treat patients after hours and on weekends;
  • Expansion in allopathic and osteopathic medical school enrollment;
  • Routine, evidence-based cancer screening;
  • Restored funding of statewide preceptorship programs; and
  • Vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) of both young women and young men between ages 9 and 26.