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Monday, October 18, 2010

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT TEXPAC JUDICIAL SLATE CARDS?

After last week’s EVPGram article on TEXPAC’s judicial election slate cards, several readers wrote asking me to remind TMA members why those little red cards are so important. Two big reasons:
  • First, the justices we elect to the Texas Supreme Court and our 11 courts of appeals make huge decisions that affect our legal system. Many cases that interpret our 2003 liability reforms are still making their way through the courts, and we need to make sure we don’t allow the trial lawyers to elect activist judges who will rewrite that law from the bench.
  • Second, we make a big difference in these elections. TEXPAC has been on the forefront of helping to elect fair, impartial, and qualified judicial candidates since the successful Clean Slate in ’88 program. By distributing the slate cards to your patients, friends, and colleagues, you are playing an active role in political education. Order yours today (PDF).

TMA LEADERSHIP COLLEGE CLASS SURVIVES "BOOT CAMP"

From negotiating skills to liability risks for nonprofit board members, from personality types to media interviews, the 23 members of the charter class in the TMA Leadership College soaked up the knowledge at their four-day “boot camp.” The college’s mission is to instill strong and sustainable leadership qualities and promote the role of physicians as trusted leaders in their communities. “We believe it is essential to help grow new leaders from within, to lead from the exam room to the board room,” TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, told the scholars. Homework assignments, attending at least one First Tuesdays at the Capitol next year, and a final two days at TexMed 2011 in Houston will complete the students’ course work.

SGR, HEALTH REFORM VOTES EARN TEXPAC ENDORSEMENT FOR TWO

U.S. Reps. Chet Edwards (D-Waco) and Michael McCaul (R-Austin) joined Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), as the only Texas congressional representatives to win TEXPAC’s endorsement for the Nov. 2 general election. Those three are the only Texans in Congress who voted both for repeal of Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR) funding formula and against passage of the health system reform bill. “Because we have been so disappointed in what Congress has and hasn’t done over the past two years, we wanted to set the bar very high and focus on the Medicare and health reform votes, which were so vitally important to patients and physicians,” said TEXPAC Board Chair Susan Strate, MD. “To be sure, other members of the Texas delegation have been friends to patients and physicians, but Representatives Burgess, Edwards, and McCaul were the only ones to cast the right votes on those critical decisions.”

WEARY PHYSICIANS WARNED TO BE WARY

Speaker after speaker at TMA 2010 Fall Conference acknowledged physicians’ ongoing unease over the still-uncertain changes coming from Washington and the lack of any long-term solution to the Medicare SGR problem. But, they warned, the road is likely to become bumpier before it smooths out. “Our inability to enact a permanent fix for the SGR — especially with a brand new ‘Medicare cost containment program’ slated to start in just four years — is probably the most frustrating experience of my past 10 years in organized medicine,” said Dr. Bailey. Other speakers cautioned physicians to be careful — but not to stick their heads in the sand — as they examine offers to be part of an accountable care organization (ACO). One expert reminded audience members that they could identify the real winners on that issue if they rewrite the acronym to stand for “Attorneys’ and Consultants’ Opportunity.” On the state legislative front, panelists pointed out that redistricting and the state budget will overwhelm just about every other issue our lawmakers will face in the 2011 session. The projected $10 million-$20 billion budget shortfall will have enormous implications. “We do not have the money to sustain the programs that are in place now,” said State Rep. Susan King (R-Abilene), the only TMA Alliance member in the Texas House. “That means that we must cut, not only to the skin, to the muscle, to the bone, to the bone marrow.”

EARLY VOTING BEGINS TODAY; VOTE FOR THE PARTY OF MEDICINE

Today is the first day to vote early in the Nov. 2 general election. Early voting closes on Friday, Oct. 29. Please remember to vote, and encourage your staff, friends, family, and patients to cast their ballots as well. TEXPAC recommends these executive, legislative, and judicial candidates (PDF) for your strong consideration.

Monday, October 11, 2010

TMA AND ALLIANCE LEGISLATORS TO OUTLINE TEXAS ROAD TO REFORM THIS WEEKEND

I look forward to seeing you Friday and Saturday for TMA 2010 Fall Conference at the Hyatt Regency Austin. Our closing general session Saturday morning features three of our own who will be making key decisions in the 2011 Texas Legislature. Rep. Susan King (R-Abilene), a TMA Alliance member, will join Rep. Mark Shelton, MD (R-Fort Worth), and Rep.-to-be Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), to discuss “Shaping Health System Reform in Texas.” Other general session speakers Saturday include Andrew Gurman, MD, vice speaker of the American Medical Association House of Delegates, who will discuss the next steps in health system reform; and William Darling, JD, who will talk about accountable care organizations and your options. Online registration for the conference is closed, but you still may register in person on Friday at the Hyatt or TMA building and on Saturday at the Hyatt. Please note that there will be several road closures on the route from the TMA building to the Hyatt. On Friday, part of Cesar Chavez and the First Street Bridge will be closed for Austin Start Heart Walk; Thursday through Sunday, part of Congress Avenue and 11th Street will be closed for the Texas Book Festival. View (PDF) a map of the road closures and recommended alternative routes.

GRANT TO FUND FIRST TMA LEADERSHIP COLLEGE

The Physicians Foundations has given TMA a $75,000 grant to support the inaugural class of our TMA Leadership College. The year-long program begins with a four-day boot camp this weekend. This college is designed to identify, train, and build young TMA member physicians into leaders at the state and local levels. It is aimed at active members in their first eight years of practice or younger than 40. The Physicians Foundations also gave TMA a $150,000 grant to develop a meaningful use achievement toolkit for physicians. It will give detailed instructions to physicians and their staff about exactly what they must do, specific to their electronic medical record (EMR) product, to meet any one of the 25 meaningful-use criteria the federal government has set. Eligible physicians may receive bonuses of up to $44,000 under Medicare or $63,750 under Medicaid for achieving meaningful use with their EMR.

AMA CALLS TEXAS A "MEDICARE ACCESS HOT SPOT" THAT COULD GET WORSE

Texas senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and military families already are having a hard time finding physicians to care for them under Medicare and Tricare. That’s why AMA has designated our state a “Medicare Access Hot Spot.” (PDF) AMA says nearly one in eight Texans lives in a primary care shortage area, and 40 percent of the state’s Medicare beneficiaries live below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. That makes the 23-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare payment set to take effect Dec. 1 that much more critical for us to stop. And don’t forget the additional 6.5-percent cut coming Jan. 1. We’re asking physicians and patients to meet with our senators and representatives while they are home now campaigning. 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.

JUDICIAL ELECTION SLATE CARDS READY FOR ORDER

Who are medicine’s picks for justices on the Texas Supreme Court and our 11 courts of appeals? These low-profile races rarely attract much attention, but the winners make some very important decisions for physicians and your patients. That’s why TEXPAC once again is offering our little red slate cards for you to share with your patients. Each election cycle, TEXPAC and the medical community distribute up to 1 million slate cards to help educate voters on the best judicial candidates. Please order your customized slate cards today (PDF).

CONSIDER THE PATIENTS

State leaders should consider how their decisions impact patients’ lives when they decide how to implement provisions of the new health system reform law (PDF) in Texas. That was the message Austin neurologist Sara Austin, MD, delivered on behalf of TMA to the House Select Committee on Legislation, chaired by Rep. John Zerwas, MD, last week. Dr. Austin’s testimony focused on three challenges to implementing the law:
  • Establishment of accountable care organization pilots in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and employment retirement services, including the private market;
  • Establishment of a Consumer Assistance Office/Ombudsman Program; and
  • Establishment of a state insurance exchange.
She also noted that TMA has traveled the state, educating physicians about the new health law and what it means to their practice and what it means to their patients.

Monday, October 4, 2010

TMA HONORED FOR BUSINESS EXCELLENCE

An accurate membership list is the heart of any medical society. I’m proud to announce that we have a very healthy heart. It’s much more than a list. It’s a complex piece of business software known as iMIS that drives almost every TMA business function. We’re so good at using it that Advanced Solutions International (ASI), the software vendor, awarded us silver status in the iMIS Business Excellence Forum. ASI cited our development of an automated dues processing system and our focus on measuring results, and said we have “become an industry leader” by supporting Texas county medical societies and other state medical associations with their use of iMIS. “Rarely do we encounter a non-profit that is as focused on performance measurement, planning, and continuous improvement as TMA,” said Nathan Slovin, executive director of ASI’s Business Excellence Forum. Congratulations to TMA Chief Operating Officer John Dorman and his team.

TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO REGISTER TO VOTE

Are you registered? Today is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 2 election. It’s your last chance to make sure you can cast a ballot for governor, Congress, and most of the Texas Legislature. You can use TMA’s Grassroots Action Center to print out a voter registration card, which has to be postmarked before midnight tonight to count. Early voting begins Oct. 18.

SURVEY SAYS TEXAS TORT REFORMS HAVE STRONG BIPARTISAN SUPPORT

A survey released by Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (PDF) found that the majority of Texas voters — from across the political spectrum — believe that lawsuit reforms have helped increase access to health care, injected fairness in our courts, and helped attract businesses and jobs to the state. Sixty-two percent of the respondents said our 2003 medical liability reforms have been a good thing because they have helped bring thousands of new physician specialists to Texas, allowed hospitals to provide expanded medical care, and reduced lawsuits so people with legitimate liability claims can have their cases heard. Supporters include 58 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of political independents, and 68 percent of Republicans. More than three-quarters of all respondents said the Texas Legislature should “protect reforms designed to reduce abusive lawsuits.”

TEXPAC CONTRIBUTIONS PASS $900,000 MARK

If you joined TEXPAC this year you have lots of company — not enough, of course, but lots of it. As we closed the books on our TEXPAC membership year, we blew away our totals from 2009. This is only the fourth time in TEXPAC’s 48-year-history that physicians and alliance members have contributed more than $900,000 in one year. The first three were in 1990, 2002, and 2003.

FALL CONFERENCE SPEAKER TO FOCUS ON "POST-REFORM FIXES"

If you thought the health system reform debate was tough, are you ready to do it again? And again? And again? Join your colleagues to discuss all that and more in Austin Oct. 15 and 16 for TMA 2010 Fall Conference. Our keynote speaker on Saturday morning is Nathan Kaufman of Kaufman Strategic Advisors, who will share his thoughts on “Preparing for Inevitable Post-Reform Fixes.” Tweeting at the conference? Remember to use the #TMAFALL hash tag.

NEW ACO WORKSHOP HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR CHOICES

I’m sure you’ve heard about accountable care organizations (ACOs). Maybe a hospital has asked — or pressured — your practice to sign up for one of these yet-to-be-defined delivery systems. The ACO questions seem to vastly outnumber the answers at this point. TMA’s new ACO seminars, starting next month, will focus on helping doctors examine their range of practice options: Should you stay put or look at alternative arrangements with groups or hospitals? What are the benefits and limitations or pros and cons of each? We urge you to take the time to learn about these systems. Understand their differences and what they can mean to your practice and your patients.

WACO PHYSICIAN TAKES LEAD AT AAFP

Congratulations to Roland Goertz, MD, of Waco on his installation as the new president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). You can read and watch excerpts of Dr. Goertz’s remarks on the AAFP website.