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Monday, June 27, 2011

TMA PHYSICIANS WIN THREE AMA POSITIONS; TWO LAST-MINUTE CANDIDATES COME UP SHORT

Led by former TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, three Texas physicians won key leadership spots in elections at the American Medical Association House of Delegates. As the newly elected vice speaker of the AMA house, Dr. Bailey becomes a member of the AMA Board of Trustees and is now on what historically has been a track toward becoming AMA president. Dallas internist Lynne Kirk, MD, won a contested race for the AMA Council on Medical Education, and Houston’s Russ Kridel, MD, won his race for reelection to the AMA Council on Science and Public Health. Responding to two last-minute openings on AMA councils, Drs. Dawn Buckingham and Ken Mattox willingly threw their hats into the ring. Although neither Dr. Mattox, a trauma surgeon from Houston, nor Dr. Buckingham, an Austin ophthalmologist, won their races, they ran well and displayed TMA's “bench strength” in Chicago. Check out the video of their short campaigns.

HEALTH BILL SPENDS WEEK IN LIMBO AS SPECIAL SESSION NEARS END

Disagreements over how many more restrictions legislators would put on abortions stymied consideration of Senate Bill 7, the omnibus health care bill that rolls up many measures from the regular session of the Texas Legislature. In addition to making huge changes in Texas’ health care delivery systems, the bill would deny state funding to public hospital districts that perform abortions, except in the case of a medical emergency. The week-long delay came over the definition of “medical emergency.” Compromise language in the new conference committee report on SB 7 says the medical emergency exception would apply only when the fetus could not survive outside the womb. The latest word is that the bill, by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), likely will be up for House and Senate consideration today. The special legislative session ends Wednesday, with many other key issues still unresolved. SB 28 by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee a week ago but has made no progress since. It would ban smoking in some public places and could save the state more than $30 million in Medicaid costs.

NATIONAL RADIO NETWORK HOSTS DR. MALONE ON AMA DECISION ON INSURANCE COVERAGE

Immediately after the AMA House of Delegates voted to keep AMA’s support for a mandate that nearly all Americans be required to have or buy health insurance, TMA arranged an interview with national CBS Radio for TMA President Bruce Malone, MD. The discussion ranged from the issue itself, to the tenor of the often-heated debate, to the impact the vote will have on AMA membership. “The AMA house has struggled with the question of how do you provide insurance for more of our citizens without violating individual rights.” Dr. Malone said. “The mandate to buy health insurance is offensive to some, but insurance pools do not work economically without broad participation. So Texas physicians wanted to leave these rules to the states instead of having it determined by the federal government.” The state option failed in the House by a 3:2 margin.

TMA ASKS CMS TO DELAY E-PRESCRIPTION DEADLINE

TMA urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to push back its June 30 deadline for physicians to report they have prescribed medications electronically or be penalized. The unreasonable deadline is causing serious problems for Texas physicians and their patients. CMS requires physicians who see Medicare patients to report having transmitted 10 e-prescriptions by June 30 or face a 1-percent penalty on all allowable charges they bill to Medicare beginning in 2012. To comply with the deadline, some physicians are rushing into e-prescribing to avoid the penalty, using free or temporary systems. TMA asked CMS to defer the compliance date to Oct.1. We also asked the agency to grant physicians automatic exemptions if they attest that they intend to e-prescribe by Oct. 1, 2012, under a Medicare incentive program that rewards physicians for “meaningful use” of an electronic health record, including the use of e-prescribing technology.

REST IN PEACE, RUTH BAIN, MD

Funeral services are today in Centerville, Texas, for Ruth Bain, MD, TMA’s second female president. During 39 years in private practice, the family physician from Austin delivered more than 1,000 babies. Dr. Bain was president of Travis County Medical Society and first winner of its Gold-Headed Cane Award, inducted into the Central Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, a member of the State Board of Medical Examiners, and a winner of TMA’s Distinguished Service Award. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Texas Women’s University Foundation; The University of Texas Medical Branch; the Texas Medical Association Foundation; Hospice of East Texas, 4111 University Blvd., Tyler, TX 75701; or the charity of your choice.

MAGAZINE HONORS DR. MALONE, RAISES FUNDS FOR HARD HATS

Nside Austin magazine held a reception at Lambert’s in downtown Austin to honor Dr. Malone. Around 70 physicians, alliance members, and Austin business people attended. Dr. Malone discussed the challenges and opportunities in today’s changing health care landscape. He also discussed why TMA started Hard Hats for Little Heads and our accomplishment of giving 100,000 Texas children new bicycle helmets since 1994. Most of the helmets have been given away in the past six years. Part of the money raised at the event will help buy more helmets for little heads.

Monday, June 20, 2011

HUGE HEALTH CARE BILL IN CONFERENCE COMMITTEE

Five state senators and five representatives are reportedly very close to finalizing the details of Senate Bill 7, the omnibus health care bill that rolls up many measures from the regular session of the Texas Legislature. We expect to have a conference committee report ― and possibly votes in both chambers ― as early as tomorrow. Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) is the author of SB 7; Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), is the House sponsor. Key provisions of the bill would:

  • Establish a statewide plan to improve quality and increase efficiency by forming and regulating health care collaboratives;
  • Ensure physicians have an equal say and vote in a collaborative’s governing board, and due process protections and the ability to participate in more than one collaborative arrangement;
  • Create a Medicaid and CHIP Quality-Based Payment Advisory Committee and program that would tie a portion of Medicaid HMO premiums to improved health outcomes and quality, and implement copayments in Medicaid to reduce unnecessary emergency department use;
  • Create more than $460 million for Medicaid by placing a premium tax on Medicaid managed care companies expanding to the Rio Grande Valley; and
  • Protect patients from vaccine-preventable diseases by requiring health care facilities to have a plan for properly immunizing health care workers.

BAILEY RUNNING HARD; KRIDEL DECLARES VICTORY

It seems like it’s been all politics all the time here in Chicago at the annual meeting of the AMA House of Delegates. Former TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, is campaigning hard in her race for vice speaker of the AMA house. Her support team includes Drs. Melissa Garretson, Dawn Buckingham, David Fleeger, and Dan McCoy, but the entire Texas Delegation to the AMA is making contacts on Dr. Bailey’s behalf. The election is tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, we’re proud to announce that Houston’s Russ Kridel, MD, has already won his race for reelection to the AMA Council on Science and Public Health. On the policy side, the big debates continue to focus on AMA’s support for the health system reform law. Delegates in one reference committee spent several hours Sunday talking about whether AMA should continue to back the mandate for all Americans to buy health insurance. Another committee tackled a long list of improvements that need to be made in the law ― along the lines of TMA's Find It, Fix It, Keep It campaign.

PERRY SIGNS OUR TMB-REFORM BILLS INTO LAW

TMA’s package of bills to reform the Texas Medical Board is now law. Gov. Rick Perry signed SB 227 by Senator Nelson and Rep. Susan King (R-Abilene), and House Bill 680 by Rep. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place). One of the most important things the bills do is prohibit the filing of anonymous complaints. They also:

  • Require the board to notify the physician when insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, or third-party administrators file a complaint;
  • Increase the time for a physician to respond to a complaint notice from 30 days to 45 days;
  • Allow physicians to tape the proceedings of a TMB informal settlement conference;
  • Allow TMB to require a remedial action plan rather than impose a fine for a minor administrative violation; and
  • Institute a seven-year statute of limitation on bringing a disciplinary action.

TMA ANNOUNCES NEW MEMBER BENEFIT FOR PQRS

TMA presents PQRIwizard, a simple and cost-effective online tool that eligible physicians can use to collect and report quality measure data under Medicare’s Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) pay-for-reporting program. The $250 TMA discounted fee for PQRIwizard is competitively priced and easily used by smaller practices. The tool lets you participate in PQRS without modifying your billing process. On average, 2009 bonus payments for satisfactory reporters in PQRS were $1,956 per eligible professional.

THREE TEXAS MEDICAL STUDENTS WIN AMA LEADERSHIP SPOTS

Our Texas medical students racked up three leadership positions in the AMA Medical Student Section. Congratulations to:

  • The new AMA MSS Region III chair Abhinav Khanna, a second-year student at Baylor College of Medicine;
  • Mary McFarland, a second-year student at Texas A&M University Medical School, Region III Community Services Chair; and
  • Rikki Baldwin, a second-year student at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Region III Membership Chair.

Monday, June 13, 2011

HOUSE, SENATE PASS MASSIVE HEALTH BILL IN SPECIAL SESSION

Both chambers of the legislature have approved Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton). We’re waiting to hear whether the Senate will accept the House version or take the bill to conference committee. In a (large) nutshell, SB 7 would:

  • Establish a statewide plan to improve quality and increase efficiency by forming and regulating health care collaboratives:
  • Ensure physicians have an equal say and vote in a collaborative’s governing board, and due process protections and the ability to participate in more than one collaborative arrangement;
  • Create a Medicaid and CHIP Quality-Based Payment Advisory Committee and program that would tie a portion of Medicaid HMO premiums to improved health outcomes and quality, and implement copayments in Medicaid to reduce unnecessary emergency room use;
  • Create more than $460 million for Medicaid by placing a premium tax on Medicaid managed care companies expanding to the Rio Grande Valley;
  • Protect patients from vaccine-preventable diseases by requiring health care facilities to have a plan for properly immunizing health care workers; and
  • Establish the Texas Emergency and Trauma Care Education Partnership Program to ensure support of the trauma infrastructure in Texas.

SMOKING BAN, SILENT PPO REGULATION NEED YOUR HELP

We’re asking TMA members to call the capitol on two key issues today.
  • Legislation to ban smoking in certain public places is still burning. If passed, the bill would save Medicaid more than $30 million because fewer people will get sick. The Senate may take up its version of the bill — SB 28 by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) — early this week. Please call your senator — if you’re from Houston, call Sen. Mike Jackson (R-Houston) — in support of SB 28.
  • Also, please take a moment today to call Gov. Rick Perry’s office at (512) 463-2000. Ask the governor to support the silent PPO amendment (No. 20) on Senator Nelson’s SB 7. The amendment promotes transparency of who is using physician and hospital contracted discounts. Governor Perry’s support is critical to keeping regulation of silent PPOs alive.

TEXAS TAKES TWO CANDIDATES, ONE RESOLUTION TO AMA HOUSE OF DELEGATES

Barely a month removed from her hectic year as TMA president, Sue Bailey, MD, is aiming for the American Medical Association’s leadership rungs. Currently a member of the AMA Council on Medical Education, Dr. Bailey is running for vice speaker of the AMA House of Delegates at the AMA house meeting that begins Saturday. She faces off against David Hannan, MD, of New York. Vice speaker is traditionally a path to the AMA presidency. Russ Kridel, MD, an otolaryngologist from Houston, is running for reelection to the AMA Council on Science and Public Health. He is one of three announced candidates for three seats on the council. And, we’re taking Resolution 718 (PDF) — passed last month by the TMA House of Delegates — to AMA. This resolution asks AMA to push the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop fair and accurate ranking measures to use on its Physician Compare Website. It also asks AMA to advocate that CMS develop an appeals process for physicians to use before any information is posted to the site. Follow all the action on Blogged Arteries.

1,400-PLUS LISTEN IN TO TMA LEGISLATIVE UPDATE CALL

If you missed TMA’s 2011 Tele-Legislative Update, you can still get all the details on the 2011 regular session by watching the video recording online. An audio recording also is available. TMA President Bruce Malone, MD, along with Gary Floyd, MD, chair of TMA’s Council on Legislation, and Dan McCoy, MD, immediate past chair of the council, walked more than 1,400 physicians through what happened during the regular session that affects physicians and their patients, and what is still in play during the special session. TMA’s lobby team was available to answer questions.

TWO FORMER TMA PRESIDENTS HONORED AS DISTINGUISHED UTMB ALUMNI

Congratulations to former TMA Presidents Tom Hancher, MD, and Bill Bailey, MD, who were honored with The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumnus Award. The highest honor given by the university’s School of Medicine Alumni Association, the award recognizes outstanding service to the medical profession and to humanity. It honors the memory of Ashbel Smith, MD, a prominent figure in Texas medicine, politics, and education.

IN LOVING MEMORY OF LILLIAN E. GOODMAN

TMA staff asks that you join us in offering condolences Lou Goodman, PhD, and his family on the passing of his mother, Lillian. Like her son, Lillian Goodman was an avid joiner. She was an active member of Temple Beth El, holding such positions as treasurer, golden book chair, gift shop chair, and ways and means and corresponding secretary. She was a life member of Hadassah and also was awarded Woman of Valor for Sisterhood. Graveside services were held Sunday in New Jersey.

Monday, June 6, 2011

DON'T CALL US, WE'LL CALL YOU WEDNESDAY FOR UPDATE ON TMA'S GREAT LEGISLATIVE SESSION

 It was a tough legislative session from the outset. With an enormous budget deficit and special interest groups from hospitals to midlevel practitioners to those who wanted to emasculate the Texas Medical Board lining up to take on organized medicine, it seemed TMA’s agenda for the 2011 Texas Legislature faced tough sledding. But when the session ended on May 30, TMA scored some dramatic victories for physicians and your patients. Learn more at 8 pm (CT), Wednesday, June 8, when TMA President Bruce Malone, MD, will call you at your home telephone number and invite you to stay on the line for TMA’s Tele-2011 Legislative Update. Members of the TMA Council on Legislation and TMA’s lobby team will be on the line for the hour-long program that gives you the chance to earn 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM. If you prefer that we call you on your cell or office telephone, please contact the TMA Knowledge Center by telephone at (800) 880-7955 or by email by the end of the day today.

SPECIAL SESSION ROARS THROUGH HEALTH ITEMS

When lawmakers started picking up the pieces in the special session Gov. Rick Perry called, TMA was there picking up our pace from the regular session. Asa Lockhart, MD, chair of TMA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Accountable Care Organizations, testified before the Senate Finance Committee in support of Senate Bill 7, the omnibus health care bill that rolls up many measures from the regular session. SB 7 would create new health care collaboratives in Texas and reduce costs in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) is sponsoring SB 7; Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), is the sponsor of House Bill 7, its counterpart across the rotunda. We’re also watching SB 5 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place) that would establish the Interstate Health Care Compact to petition the federal government to block-grant all federal funding to the states for health care services. A similar bill in the House, HB 13 by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), calls for the development of a Section 1115 federal waiver (block grant) to give Texas greater flexibility in the design and operation of the Medicaid program. TMA submitted written comments to the House Appropriations Committee on HB 13. We emphasized our concerns about whether Texas could secure enough funding to cover not only annual medical inflation but also caseload growth.

TMA SEMINAR SERIES EXPLAINS ACO PITFALLS

If you are thinking about joining an accountable care organization (ACO) or if you don’t know what an ACO is, TMA has the answers you need in a series of seminars across Texas this summer. “What Health Reform & Accountable Care Mean to Physicians” will address whether ACOs are an opportunity or challenge, understanding and negotiating employment contracts, new payment models, and health information technology. TMA does not endorse participation in an ACO or any other post-reform program. We encourage physicians to be wary, be informed, and learn what these systems can mean to your practice and patients.

AMA PICKS MADARA AS NEW EVP/CEO

James L. Madara, MD, will become the American Medical Association’s new executive vice president and CEO on July 1. Dr. Madara, 60, is an accomplished academic medical center physician, research pathologist, and administrator who served as Timmie Professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine before assuming the Thompson Distinguished Service Professorship and deanship at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He later added the title of CEO of the University of Chicago Medical Center. Dr. Madara replaces Mike Maves, MD, who has led the AMA since 2001.