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Monday, November 19, 2012

RIP, LADON W. HOMER, MD (1935-2012)

With sadness, we say goodbye to a great leader, an excellent physician, a fine man, and a dear friend. Funeral services are at 2 pm today at Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church for former TMA President Ladon Homer, MD. He was a man of utmost integrity and an inspiration to many of us. “I will always refer to Ladon as Dr. Chairman,” said TMA Immediate Past President Bruce Malone, MD. “He was a mentor for everyone and a true Southern gentleman. The dynamic duo of Ladon and Mary Ann will always hold a special place in our leadership.” On behalf of all of Texas medicine, I send my deepest sympathies to Mary Ann, Kevin, Greg, Jana, and their families. Mary Ann Homer’s mailing address is 6601 Sahalee Dr., Fort Worth, TX 76132-4508.

AMA HOUSE: SAVE MEDICARE, HELP EMPLOYED PHYSICIANS, STOP ICD-10

The American Medical Association House of Delegates took significant action at its 2012 interim meeting to address some of medicine’s most pressing problems. Delegates completed a multi-year plan by adopting a framework to transition Medicare to a defined contribution program that would allow beneficiaries to either buy coverage of their choice from a wide variety of plans or stay in the traditional Medicare system. The new AMA Principles for Physician Employment should be helpful for young doctors coming out of residency and fellowship with no training on the business side of medicine. After winning a one-year delay in the mandatory implementation of the ICD-10 coding system, AMA delegates voted to “vigorously advocate” with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to make the change permanent. And Texan Pat Hyer, president of the AMA Alliance, won a standing ovation when she told the house, “With the uncertainty about the future of medicine, there is no greater time than now to join the AMA Alliance.”

PRACTICE YOUR TESTIMONY SKILLS AT TMA ADVOCACY RETREAT

The start of the 2013 Texas Legislature will be just a month away when the TMA Specialty Society Advocacy Retreat convenes in Austin, Dec 7-8. Added to this year's retreat is a mock legislative hearing at the State Capitol, where you can practice testifying in a way that will sway lawmakers. We’re also featuring a dinner with legislative leaders, expert insights into the political and policy landscape, and the state specialty societies’ rundown of critical issues. Register today.

CONGRATULATIONS TO HOWARD MARCUS, MD

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Austin internist Howard Marcus, MD, to the Texas Council on Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. The council educates, informs, and coordinates activities to reduce the human and financial toll of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Dr. Marcus is the longtime chair of the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, which defends our 2003 tort reforms.

TMA CALLS ON STATE TO KEEP STUDENTS' FITNESS DATA

Nearly 120 years ago, the great physicist Lord Kelvin taught us you cannot improve what you cannot measure. That maxim applies to politics, business, and education as well as science. Austin pediatrician Stephen Pont, MD, brought that lesson to the Texas Sunset Commission when he spoke against a recommendation to eliminate the state’s Physical Fitness Assessment Report. Known as the FitnessGram, the report is a physical education assessment and reporting program required under current law for children in grades 3 through 12 who participate in physical education classes. “Obesity and its related disorders cost the Texas economy a projected $9 billion in 2009,” Dr. Pont said, testifying on behalf of TMA, the Texas Pediatric Society, and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. “If unchecked, this cost is anticipated to grow to more than $32 billion by 2030. That is $32 billion we could use elsewhere in the state budget, such as in our education system. It is $32 billion we cannot afford to squander.”

IN SHORT: SENATOR CORNYN, SMOKE-FREE TEXAS, NETWORK ADEQUACY, TEXTING DANGERS


Here’s a quick recap of TMA highlights from the past week:
  • TMA congratulated Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on his election as Senate minority whip.
  • The Texas Public Health Coalition’s “University of Health” session focused on the health and economic benefits of a ban on smoking in public places.
  • TMA told the Texas Department of Insurance to rethink its rules, again, on physician network adequacy for PPOs and EPOs.
  • Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland) refiled his bill, with TMA support, to ban texting while driving.

Monday, November 12, 2012

AMA HOUSE DIGS INTO TESTY ISSUES

Just days after the election, leading Texas physicians and medical students gathered in Honolulu to help chart the future of medicine in President Obama’s second term. Among the hottest items up for debate at the 2012 Interim Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates: whether to save Medicare by turning it into a defined contribution system, what to do with the now-optional Medicaid expansion, how to navigate thorny logistical issues and bring the interim house meeting to the nation’s capital every year, and how to put a permanent stake into the ICD-10 coding system. We’ll have a recap in next week’s EVPGram and full coverage in Texas Medicine magazine.

TEXPAC SCORES BIG ELECTION WINS

The Nov. 6 election was another successful one for TEXPAC as voters elected a record seven TMA and TMA Alliance members to the Texas Legislature. Sen. Bob Deuell, MD (R-Greenville), won reelection to the Texas Senate, while Rep. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels), were elected to their first Senate terms. In House elections, Reps. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), and Susan King (R-Abilene), a TMA Alliance member, won new terms. Newcomers Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), and J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), will join them. In a tough State Senate race in Fort Worth, Mark Shelton, MD, lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis. The vote was close — only 1,600 votes separated them. Voters reelected U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Flower Mound), to another term as the only TMA member in Congress. In contested races for the Texas Supreme Court, incumbent Republican justices Don Willett and Nathan Hecht were reelected.

QUITE DISTINGUISHED INDEED

I am so proud of former TMA President Mark Kubala, MD. The Beaumont neurosurgeon received the 2012 AMA Distinguished Service Award “for meritorious service in the science and art of medicine.” He has been active in organized medicine since his days as a medical student in 1968 and a member of the AMA House of Delegates since 1994. TMA and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons celebrated the occasion with a Texas-style luau.

NATIONAL GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY COALITION TAKING SHAPE

I’m pleased to report that eight other state medical societies have joined with TMA to establish a new coalition to improve medicine’s voice in Washington, D.C. Our goal is to focus the efforts of physicians from blue and red states on medicine’s issues without partisan politics getting in the way. The coalition will work as a complement to AMA; it will have the same agenda but a different strategy and tactics. Our first step will be to meet with Representative Burgess and other physician-congressmen next month to discuss how best to achieve medicine’s goals.

PHYSICIANS MEDICAID CONGRESS REGIONAL HEARINGS START THIS WEEK

Our search for a constructive plan to reinvent the Medicaid system heads to South Texas this week with a pair of regional hearings of the Physicians Medicaid Congress. The hearings are seeking physician suggestions for ways to improve Medicaid payments, reduce hassles, and reeducate the state’s newly enhanced fraud-and-abuse cops. Congress Co-Chair John Holcomb, MD, and Bexar County Medical Society President Roberto Trevino Jr., MD, will lead Monday’s hearing in San Antonio. Cameron-Willacy County Medical Society Exec Javier Vasquez will serve as master of ceremonies Tuesday in the Rio Grande Valley.

TMA CALLS OUT CHIROPRACTIC BOARD ON NEW RULE

The Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners (TBCE) is at it again. The board has lost numerous court battles with physicians over its attempts to expand chiropractors’ scope of practice by passing a rule. This time, TBCE proposed a new definition of biomechanics, one of the keys to that profession’s statutorily prescribed scope. The new rule defines “biomechanics” to cover tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules as well as “the nervous system that allows a body or part of a body to move from one place or position to another or to maintain position.” TMA and the Texas Neurological Society (TNS) fired off a strongly worded letter protesting that the rule goes way beyond any medical or standard English definition of biomechanics. “It is inappropriate for the TBCE to manufacture its own definition of biomechanics in such a way that it circumvents the statutory limitations placed on the scope of chiropractic,” TMA President Michael Speer, MD, and TNS President Sara Austin, MD, wrote. “This proposed rule incorporates terms to ultimately encompass procedures and areas of practice that are prohibited by statute.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

VOTE TOMORROW

Tomorrow is Election Day. I hope you take the time to go to the polls and encourage your family, friends, colleagues, staff, and patients to do the same. TEXPAC has endorsed an impressive list of candidates that includes physicians and TMA Alliance members. Check out the list of TEXPAC-endorsed congressional, legislative, and judicial candidates. While the outcome of the presidential contest surely will have a huge impact on medicine, it’s critical that we elect patient- and physician-friendly candidates to counter or help the next president's agenda.

NOVITAS TO BEGIN PROCESSING MEDICARE CLAIMS


Novitas Solutions takes over administration of physicians’ Medicare claims in Texas and several surrounding states from TrailBlazer Health Enterprises on Nov. 19.

TMA established the Novitas Resource Center on the TMA website. It tells you what you need to do right now and links to the Novitas transition website.
Here are six things you need to do now to make sure your patient care and cash flow aren’t interrupted:
  1. Double check that you’ve sent your electronic funds transfer paperwork to Novitas;
  2. Review Novitas’ Local Coverage Determination policies;
  3. Familiarize yourself with the Novitas website;
  4. Take a close look at Novitas’ evaluation and management coding guidelines;
  5. Consider enrolling in TMA’s statewide fall Medicare seminar series; and
  6. If you have any questions, please call the TMA Knowledge Center at (800) 880-7955.

DO YOU USE AN EHR?

Two surveys are examining how physicians use electronic health records (EHRs). Thanks to a Physicians Foundation grant, the Louisiana State Medical Society is conducting a nationwide survey of why physicians do or do not adopt EHRs. The grant allows our neighbors to expand a statewide survey they did last year. The survey will address factors that discriminate between nonadopters and adopters, the presence of specific inhibitors of EHR adoption, and the patterns of adopters that lead to meaningful use. Physicians who take the survey are eligible to win an e-reader.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association and AmericanEHR Partners are teaming up to survey physicians who use or plan to use an EHR. The survey results will help populate a growing database of EHR system rankings.

THOUGHTS ON THE ELECTION

“As physicians, citizens, potential patients and, if we are fortunate, seniors, we should cast our vote only after very careful consideration. The future of health care delivery for the elderly depends on it!” Those are the words of former TMA President Robert M. Tenery, MD, in his Oct. 29 blog entry “Obamacare Has Thrown Our Seniors Under the Bus.”