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Monday, September 27, 2010

TMA HELPS YOU FIND WHAT'S REALLY IN THE HEALTH REFORM BILL

Now that the first wave of the health system reform law (PDF) is in effect, you might be asking yourself: What else is really in that bill? How can I get beyond the talk-show hyperbole and read the facts? TMA’s crack policy, legal, and lobby teams have compiled two excellent, easy-to-read summaries. Our executive summary reviews what the bill does — and what it doesn’t do. For more depth, see our section-by-section summary (PDF). That document can help you decide which provision of the law may pertain to a particular question or issue. Use it to gain a basic understanding of what the law intends to accomplish before reviewing the actual statutory text. Find all of this and more on TMA’s Health System Reform Action Center.

TEXPAC ALLIANCE VOLUNTEERS SHINE IN CANDIDATE'S TV AD

This weekend’s TEXPAC Alliance Volunteer (PDF) activity was supposed to be a Saturday afternoon of block walking with State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin). But at the last minute, the Howard campaign staff decided they needed to film a health care TV commercial instead — and they needed extras. Our men and women in scrubs and white coats came through. Special thanks to Drs. Eric Tiblier, Paul Keinarth, Bradley Price, Maureen Margaret Swenson, and Frank Adams, and Travis County Alliance member Roberta Pazdral. Our next events are Oct. 9 and 11 in Corpus Christi. For details or to register, please contact TEXPAC’s Paula Frey or TMA Alliance’s Sandy SolĂ­s.

DR. BURGESS: DRIVE HOME THE MEDICARE MESSAGE DURING OCTOBER CONGRESSIONAL RECESS

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), briefed TMA leaders on several possible scenarios for how Congress might address the looming Nov. 30 Medicare cut when the House and Senate return for a post-election “lame duck” session. Remember, a 23-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare fees takes effect on Dec. 1, and an additional 6.5-percent cut kicks in on Jan. 1, 2011. Dr. Burgess, the only TMA member in Congress, recommended that physicians and patients meet with our senators and representatives when they are home campaigning next month. Here’s the message:
  • We need their personal commitment for a 13-month Medicare payment freeze starting Dec. 1.
  • Congress cannot delay action until some future date and think that a retroactive “fix” makes medical practices whole. It has and will significantly impact Medicare patient care and access.

HEALTH REFORM SCHOOL COMES TO HOUSTON AND TYLER

TMA Trustee Doug Curran, MD, led the Health Reform School session we conducted with the Smith County Medical Society in Tyler, while lobbyist Dan Finch worked with the Harris County Medical Society Southwest Branch. Upcoming classes are scheduled for McAllen, Houston, San Antonio, and Beaumont. If you can’t make any of those events, you can earn an hour of continuing medical education credit by watching the video of the presentation from TexMed 2010.

GOT QUESTIONS? WE'VE GOT ANSWERS

All the planning for our presentations on health system reform can’t predict the great questions we receive from physicians in the audience. As part of TMA’s Health Reform School, we’re compiling the best questions — with answers — for December’s Texas Medicine. Here’s a sample:

Q: When will insurance coverage be better and more regulated? Right now physicians are heavily regulated but insurance companies are not. When will this change?

A: The health system reform law provides that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is charged with enforcing the insurance purchase mandate. Thus, if a person does not have health insurance coverage that conforms to the requirements of the law, a penalty is assessed by the IRS.

DID YOU DOWNLOAD TMA'S NEW MOBILE APP YET?

Let your iPhone do the work the next time you need a colleague’s contact information. The new TMA Mobile App offers 24/7 access with up-to-the-minute data on 45,000 of your Texas colleagues. Plus, the app gives you TMA news, events, alerts, and information to keep you informed. To download this free, members-only mobile application, go to www.texmed.org/iphone from your iPhone or iPad. You will need your TMA website user name and password to log in and use the app features. For a demonstration and some insight from the app’s developer, check out this video podcast that Dan McCoy, MD, chair of the TMA Council on Legislation, did with TMA Director of Business Intelligence Grant McInnes. If you can somehow wait, we’ll have a live demo of the new app — plus TMA Physician Oncology Education Program’s first iPhone app, CanSearch — at 2010 TMA Fall Conference. Although available only for the iPhone now, TMA is developing the same app for the Blackberry and the Android.

Monday, September 20, 2010

TMA'S HEALTH REFORM SCHOOL DELIVERS THE ANSWERS

What parts of the new health reform law take effect this week? How will the new quality rating and fraud and abuse provisions affect you and your practice? What do you need to know about accountable care organizations? If you had taken part in our telephone Health Reform School or the outstanding in-person event in Wichita Falls last week, you’d know the answers. TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, led the latest Health Reform School classes. Missed them? Listen to a recording of the telephone session — and pick up an hour of continuing medical education credit (PDF). Or you can attend one of our upcoming events in Houston, Tyler, McAllen, San Antonio, or Beaumont. Or you can read the excellent fact sheets and summaries posted on TMA’s Health System Reform Action Center. Don’t be late for school.

DIAGNOSIS: POLITICAL ANXIETY.RX

As you reflect on our challenges persuading lawmakers in Washington and Austin, think about how you can make an impact. The easiest and most cost-effective investment for increasing our legislative capital is your and your colleagues’ contributions to our political efforts. Your TMA dues help underwrite our hands-on lobbying efforts, but your TEXPAC contribution helps ensure that medicine-friendly candidates will serve as legislators. Need proof? Think about the difference between lobbying State Rep. Mark Shelton, MD (R-Fort Worth), and the man TEXPAC helped defeat: the author of the book Cheaper to Kill Than Maim: A Patient’s Guide to Medical Malpractice in Texas. You get the idea. The TMA Board of Trustees and the TEXPAC Board of Directors strongly encourage you and, in particular, all former TEXPAC physician members to rejoin TEXPAC and help attain our goal of 100-percent retention of last year’s members. We’re currently running at 70 percent, which is 10 percent better than our average going back to 2000. Go to www.texpac.org or call TEXPAC at (800) 880-1300, ext. 1361. Call today but certainly before the 2010 membership dues cycle ends on Sept. 30. I want to personally extend my thanks and appreciation to the 1,025 TEXPAC members who’ve contributed every year for the past decade as well as this year’s 609 “rookie” contributors. Keep your streak going in 2011.

POEP LAUNCHES CANSEARCH APP

TMA’s Physician Oncology Education Program released its first iPhone app, CanSearch. Created for primary care physicians, this free app quickly displays the current recommended screening guidelines for the top 25 cancers and includes their risk factors, nutrition and chemoprevention stats, and available imaging tests. To download, point your iPhone browser to www.texmed.org/iPOEP. And don’t forget the new TMA Mobile App, which offers 24/7 access with up-to-the-minute data on 45,000 of your Texas colleagues. Download at www.texmed.org/iPhone.

NATIONAL COORDINATOR TO DELIVER SPECIAL HIT SESSION AT TMA FALL CONFERENCE

I’m pleased to announce that David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for health information technology (HIT), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will conduct a special HIT town hall session at 2010 TMA Fall Conference on Friday, Oct. 15. The lecture hall holds just 100 people and already is sold out, but we are arranging live video feeds to an overflow room at the conference and online. You can catch the USTREAM feed at noon on Oct. 15.

TEXPAC ALLIANCE VOLUNTEERS WALK FOR MIKLOS

Dallas County Medical Society President Stephen Ozanne, MD, and his wife, Bev, led the contingent of TEXPAC Alliance Volunteers who laced up their sneakers to block walk for State Rep. Robert Miklos (D-Mesquite). Our group joined with the candidate and other volunteers to walk the district and turn out the vote for the Nov. 2 election. And they had a lot of fun to offset the blisters. Our next TEXPAC Alliance Volunteer events are a TV commercial shoot in Austin and a block walk and envelope stuffing extravaganza in Corpus Christi. Let TEXPAC know if you want to join the fun.

HOW MUCH CHARITY CARE DO YOU PROVIDE?

According to responses to TMA’s August survey, the average dollar value of the charity care delivered per physician in 2009 was $41,000, and the average amount of uncollectible debt was $70,500. Both have decreased since 2007. Does this reflect the charity care and bad debt expense in your practice? Let me know.

Monday, September 13, 2010

REFERRALS, NEWS JUST A TAP AWAY ON TMA'S NEW MOBILE APP

Let your iPhone do the work the next time you need a colleague’s contact information. The new TMA Mobile App offers 24/7 access with up-to-the-minute data on 45,000 of your Texas colleagues. Plus, the app gives you TMA news, events, alerts, and information to keep you informed. To download this free, members-only mobile application, go to www.texmed.org/iphone from your iPhone or iPad. You will need your TMA website user name and password to log in and use the app features. For a demonstration and some insight from the app’s developer, check out this video podcast that Dan McCoy, MD, chair of the TMA Council on Legislation, did with TMA Director of Business Intelligence Grant McInnes. Although available only for the iPhone now, TMA is developing the same app for the Blackberry and the Android.

TEXAS ENJOYS ANOTHER RECORD YEAR IN PHYSICIAN LICENSE REQUESTS

Our successful liability reforms continue to draw record numbers of new physicians. The Texas Medical Board (TMB) finished the fiscal year having received a record 4,128 new physician applications. Last year’s total of 4,094 was the previous record. This marks the fifth successive year that new physician applications have exceeded 4,000 and continues to dwarf the prereform numbers (pre-2003). TMB licensed 3,523 new doctors this year; that’s 12 percent more than last year and just 98 short of the state’s all-time record of 3,621.

TMA BACKS PHYSICIAN-OWNED HOSPITALS' SUIT

TMA filed an amicus curiae brief (PDF) in federal district court that supports a lawsuit seeking to overturn the new health system reform law’s restrictions on physician ownership of hospitals. We put our weight behind a federal lawsuit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius by Physician Hospitals of America and Texas Spine & Joint Hospital. “Physician hospitals have endured bullying by their non-physician-owned competitors for years,” the brief says. “Unfortunately, under pressure from non-physician-owned hospital giants, the government has impermissibly banned the future development of physician-owned hospitals. There is no justification for targeting the class of physicians in this way. No other class of professionals is discriminated against in this way.

DR. BAILEY TAKES HEALTH REFORM SCHOOL TO SOUTH TEXAS

Storms ravaging the DFW Airport slowed but could not stop TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, from filling her roll as chief instructor in TMA’s Health Reform School. Dr. Bailey made it to Corpus Christi in time to join senior TMA staff for a presentation to the Nueces County Medical Society. Later in the week, she traveled to San Antonio for the Baptist Health System Physician Hospital Organization’s annual physician conference. The latest version of Health Reform School covers:
  • Provisions of the new health system reform law effective in 2010, many of which start Sept. 23;
  • The current political climate on Capitol Hill;
    How the new quality rating and fraud and abuse provisions impact you and your practice; and
  • What you need to know about accountable care organizations.

Remember to wait by your home phone at 8 pm on Wednesday, Sept. 15, when Health Reform School comes directly to you. All you have to do is stay on the line and listen — or ask questions. You will earn 1 hour of continuing medical education credit for your time (as long as you stay on the line for the entire program). No reservation is necessary.

ARE YOU ON TOP OF NEW COMP RULES?

If you don’t keep up with workers’ compensation rules and regulations, your practice and your comp patients can run into trouble. TMA’s daylong “Workers’ Compensation 2010” seminar series begins this week. Register online. TMA and representatives from the Texas Department of Insurance Division of Workers’ Compensation will address the most frequently asked comp questions; offer practical advice on common billing, coding, and administrative errors; and preview proposed regulations that will affect how you care for injured workers in Texas.