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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rural Health Care at Risk in Texas - from the Texas Tribune



Rural Health Care at Risk in Texas, Study Says


by Bill Zeeble


 

According to a new study, already strained health care providers in rural regions will suffer without technological improvements. Bill Zeeble of KERA reports on the growing problem that could affect up to two million Texans.


  

 
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/texas-health-resources/health-reform-and-texas/rural-health-care-at-risk-in-texas-study-says/.

Monday, July 18, 2011

LEADERS GATHER TO BEGIN DESIGNING THE TMA FUTURE

The TMA Board of Trustees and dozens of physician leaders from across the state assembled for a two-day strategic planning session to begin designing and building the TMA of the Future. The meeting was the start of a year-long process that will examine the massive changes affecting the health care system, what those changes mean for Texas physicians, and how TMA can best help physicians prepare for and handle those changes. In addition to the board, the group included various TMA council and committee chairs, coalition leaders, TEXPAC, the Board of Councilors, presidents and staff leaders of county medical societies, TMA Alliance leaders, our consultants, and senior TMA staff. Participants reviewed the outcome of the 2011 Texas Legislature and began preparing for the 2012 elections and the 2013 legislative session. Led by Board Chair Tom Garcia, MD, and TMA President Bruce Malone, MD, they examined how current health care trends will affect TMA membership and the demand for TMA services. They pointed the way toward where we need more research, some ideas that are worth fleshing out for further exploration, and some potential changes that need serious, in-depth vetting. What about you? Please let me know where you think we need to focus our energies. Below is a “word cloud” that summarizes the discussion. The larger a word or phrase appears in the cloud, the more prominent it was in the meeting.

PHYSICIAN LOAN REPAYMENT PROGRAM SOLVENT FOR NEXT TWO YEARS OF PAYMENTS

Despite huge budget cuts, physicians currently in the state’s underserved area Physician Education Loan Repayment Program will see their loans covered for at least three of their four years, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has informed us. The legislature cut funding for the program by 78 percent for the next two years, a loss of $17.4 million. THECB says it has enough funds to provide loan repayment to physicians currently in the program for at least three of their four-year service commitments. These projections are based on assumptions of maximum annual loan payouts and no dropouts. Availability of funds to cover the final year will depend on what the legislature does in 2013. While this does not allow for the growth we had hoped for in the next biennium, this news at least calms concerns that repayments might halt immediately.

TMA'S HEALTH REFORM SCHOOL AND HARD HATS FOR LITTLE HEADS WIN AWARDS

Our peers around the country have found merit in two of TMA’s excellent programs. Our Health Reform School project, which helped to educate thousands of Texas physicians on the impact of the Affordable Care Act, won a Profiles of Excellence Award from the American Association of Medical Society Executives. The award recognizes how “medical societies are making waves among their membership, in their community, and the country with their unique and creative efforts.” Congratulations to TMA Media and Public Relations Director Pam Udall, who coordinated the project. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is giving a Power of A Gold Award to our Hard Hats for Little Heads program in the Power to Enrich Lives category. The Power of A Gold Award is “ASAE’s second highest level of recognition for association programs that exemplify how the association industry and professionals are essential to a stronger America and world.” Congratulations to TMA’s Tammy Wishard, our Hard Hats program manager.

EVPGRAM TO TAKE SUMMER BREAK

It’s time for EVPGram to take its summer vacation. We will be back in your inbox right after Labor Day and, of course, to deliver any breaking news before then. In the meantime, please stay in touch with Texas Medicine, Action, and the award-winning TMA website. (Speaking of Texas Medicine, check out our new digital edition. Let editor Larry BeSaw know what you think.)




Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A REPORT CARD YOU'D BE PROUD TO SHOW TO MOM AND DAD

Our top priority as the 2011 legislative session convened was to protect the patient-physician relationship in every aspect of the health care system. With an enormous budget deficit and special interest groups from hospitals to midlevel practitioners lining up to take on medicine, it felt like everyone wanted a piece of the profession. Many of our adversaries wanted control of physicians, your practices, and your patients. Others wanted to weaken the Texas Medical Board, jeopardizing Texas’ hard-fought liability reforms and Texans’ access to care. Some believed physicians were the cost drivers and needed restraint. However, when the session finally ended, physicians crossed the finish line with the reins still in hand. Even better, lawmakers took major steps to protect and strengthen the patient-physician relationship from outside interference. Working with the legislature, we were able to minimize Medicaid cuts to office-based physicians so that you can continue to see the neediest Texas patients and continue your important work of improving the health of all Texans. Read our full report card — and spread it around. We’re quite proud of it — and you should be, too.

LAWMAKERS PASS HEALTH AND BUDGET BILLS; FINALLY GO HOME:

After 170 days, the 2011 legislative session finally came to an end. Gov. Rick Perry called the special session on May 31 for lawmakers to balance the 2012-13 budget and cut health care spending. Senate Bill 7 is the omnibus health care bill that would:


  • Establish a statewide plan to improve quality and increase efficiency by forming and regulating health care collaboratives;
  • Ensure physicians would 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 in their community;
  • Create a new Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program 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 that are expanding to the Rio Grande Valley;
  • Protect patients from vaccine-preventable diseases in health care facilities, such as hospitals, by requiring them to implement vaccination policies to immunize their employees;
  • Establish the Texas Emergency and Trauma Care Education Partnership Program to ensure support of the trauma infrastructure in Texas;
  • Allow Texas to participate in a multistate compact to help fund and administer Medicaid and Medicare; and
  • Deny state funding to public hospital districts that perform abortions except in the case of a medical emergency.

TMA PRACTICE MANAGEMENT WEBINARS; ONE HOUR, ONE FEE, LOTS OF VALUE

Have an hour, and need to earn some continuing medical education (CME)? Have an hour, and need to train staff about a specific topic? TMA offers a range of one-hour, on-demand webinars to fulfill your licensure requirement and to improve your professional skills and those of your staff. These Texas-specific programs delve into hot topics related to medical records, patient relations, legal considerations, and more. You pay only one fee per webinar, and your entire staff can watch it. You may start and stop the program at your convenience, continue where you left off, and review supporting materials as often as you like. Find the full course list on the TMA website.

TWO ON TMA STAFF PROMOTED TO ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENTS

 I’d like to congratulate two of the hardest-working members of the TMA staff on their promotions. Alan Atwood is now associate vice president for technology information systems, printing, and graphics. Peggy Pringle is now associate vice president for TMA practice management services.

MEDICINE WINS; CMS DROPS LAB SIGNING RULE

Admitting it did not fully understand the impact of what it was requiring, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now says it will drop a proposed rule that the ordering physician or nonphysician practitioner (NPP) must sign requisitions for all clinical diagnostic laboratory tests paid under the clinical laboratory fee schedule. Earlier this year, TMA along with numerous specialty societies; hospitals; and several members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), asked CMS to delay the rule until next year. “Creating more bureaucracy in a system that can sometimes already be hard to navigate only creates more problems,” Congressman Burgess said. “Patients, physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, and laboratories could not afford to have this change implemented, and all supported this effort.”