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CMS Posts Full Year of 2014 Open Payments Data Totaling $6.49 Billion
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published 2014 Open Payments data detailing transfers of value by drug and medical device makers to health care professionals. The data include information about 11.4 million financial transactions attributed to more than 600,000 physicians and 1,100 teaching hospitals, totaling $6.49 billion.

Medicaid Transformation Waiver Extension Request Due Sept. 30
Texas’s five-year 1115 Medicaid Transformation Waiver will expire Sept. 30, 2016. To extend or renew the waiver, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has to submit a request to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) by Sept. 30, 2015.

Medicare Payments to Physicians Increased 0.5 Percent on July 1
Doctors' Medicare payments increased 0.5 percent on July 1 under the Sustainable Growth Rate formula repeal bill. To replace the SGR, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 created an alternative set of annual payment updates.

ICD-10 Grace Period Eases Burden But Doesn't Delay Implementation
Last week, the American Medical Association and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services jointly announced elements of a "grace period" for the Oct. 1, 2015, implementation of the ICD-10 medical billing and coding system. This is good news but not the complete deliverance physicians were hoping for.

CMS Announces Plans to Help Doctors Transition to ICD-10
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has answered TMA's call to help doctors dodge disaster by providing some flexibility as physicians shift to the new ICD-10 medical billing and coding system. Recently, physician leaders from California, Florida, and New York joined TMA in sending a letter to Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which will roll out the mandatory shift to ICD-10 on Oct. 1. While CMS didn't adopt the two-year, penalty-free grace period TMA and the other medical associations requested, the agency did take steps to alleviate some of the potential burdens physicians may face in 86 days.

Participate in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program by 2016
Physicians interested in receiving incentives for participation in the Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) incentive program need to begin by adopting, implementing, or upgrading a certified EHR by 2016. It is the last year physicians may begin participation in the program to qualify for an incentive, which pays out until 2021.

PQRS and the Value Modifier: How to Get and Understand Your Quality Report
The TMF Health Quality Innovation Network Quality Improvement Organization is hosting an open forum on Quality and Resource Use Reports (QRURs) on Tuesday, July 21, from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm CDT. This open forum is free and will provide you with information on how to access and better understand your QRUR.

Doctors: Get Ready to Accept Chip Credit Cards in Your Practice
The looming switch to ICD-10 this fall isn't the only financial transition affecting medical practices in the future. U.S. banks are stepping up security to reduce fraud by switching from strip-based to microchip-based cards by the end of the year.

HHS Awards Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grants to Six Texas Organizations
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health awarded more than $86 million in teen pregnancy prevention grants to nonprofit organizations, school districts, universities, and others. The 81 new grants will serve more than 291,000 youths each year in communities where teen birth rates remain high.

Give a High Five to Outstanding Health Reporting
The measles outbreak, new vaping legislation, a state Ebola action plan, the death of the SGR: These are just a few of the health stories that have made headlines in 2015. If a medical story in your hometown has caught your attention, nominate it for the TMA Anson Jones, MD, Awards for excellence in health reporting.

Apply Now for TMA Foundation Grant Support
TMA Foundation is accepting applications to its 2015-16 Medical Community Grants and Medical Student Leadership Grants programs.

All Mobile-Friendly CME Discounted 20 Percent This Month
Need continuing medical education (CME)? Now's the perfect time to visit the TMA Education Center! For the entire month of July, you can take an additional 20 percent off all mobile-friendly CME courses, which can be completed anywhere, anytime, and on any device.

HHSC Seeks Medicaid EHR Review Panel Members
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is seeking candidates for the Texas Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program Ad Hoc Review panel. Ideal candidates would be familiar with EHR systems and the EHR incentive program.

DSHS Issues Cyclospora Health Advisory
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) issued a health advisory encouraging physicians to test patients for Cyclospora if they have diarrheal illness lasting more than a few days or diarrhea accompanied by severe anorexia or fatigue. DSHS received reports of more than 40 cases of Cyclospora infection in June.

CDC Provides MERS Virus Evaluation Guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hosted a call with doctors on June 11 to brief them with updated information and guidelines for evaluating Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus. The interim guidance doesn't include travel advisories, but concern about the virus has grown since the Republic of Korea reported to the World Health Organization an initial case of laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV infection on May 20. CDC says it represents the first case in what is now the largest single outbreak of MERS-CoV outside of the Arabian Peninsula.

OIG Focuses Fraud Efforts on Physician Compensation
A recent U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) fraud alert warns that physician compensation arrangements may result in significant liability.

Be Part of HIE Planning for Rural Texas
Health information exchanges (HIEs) are active in several regions of Texas. Public HIEs received federal grant funds several years ago to build infrastructure that would allow physicians and other health professionals to share patient information. HIEs also have the ability to query a patient for health information outside a practice so physicians have relevant patient information at the point of care.

Ebola Resource Examines Dallas Contact Tracing, Monitoring
It has been months since the last U.S. Ebola patient received a clean bill of health, yet public health officials continue to examine the response to the disease to plan and prepare for possible future cases. "Active Tracing and Monitoring of Contacts Associated With the First Cluster of Ebola in the United States," published in the May edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, discusses the process of contact tracing during the U.S. Ebola investigation. The paper identifies key experiences from contact tracing implementation and monitoring that may assist ongoing Ebola preparedness efforts.

CDC Releases Updated Ebola Monitoring Protocol
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was expected to release new guidance on monitoring travelers from Liberia to the United States for potential Ebola infection. With the World Health Organization's designation of Liberia as "Ebola free" in May, CDC has developed a "step-down" screening protocol for low-risk travelers to the United States from Liberia.

Federal Judge Sides with Teladoc, Blocks TMB Telemedicine Rule
Last month, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted Teladoc's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that blocks the Texas Medical Board's (TMB's) recently adopted telemedicine rule, which prohibits prescription of dangerous drugs or controlled substances without a "defined physician-patient relationship." That includes a physical examination via face-to-face visit or in-person evaluation, as TMB defines those terms in the rules. TMB adopted the rule on April 10, it and was set to take effect June 3.

Consider West Nile Virus
The TMA Committee on Infectious Diseases encourages physicians to be prepared for cases of West Nile virus in patients. One human case has already been confirmed in Harris County, and recent heavy rains throughout the state could allow for mosquito population increases.

TMB Resource Helps Clarify New Telemedicine Rules
The Texas Medical Board (TMB) adopted rules April 10 concerning telemedicine and requirements for prescribing drugs and controlled substances. But since then, there has been some confusion regarding the impact of the new rules.

Victory! CSR Permit Program to Be Eliminated Next Year
Thanks to TMA advocacy this legislative session, the controlled substances registration permit program will be eliminated, effective Sept. 1, 2016. Senate Bill 195 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton) also moves the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy and broadens physicians' authority to delegate who can access the information.

TMA Tells Feds to Scrap Meaningful Use Rule
TMA's comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on proposed meaningful use Stage 3 rules offer a number of suggestions, including dismantling the program and "adopting reasonable baseline rules that physicians can meet to avoid penalties under the meaningful use program and additional requirements they may meet to receive incentive payments."

TMA, AMA Support Sunshine Act Open Payments Reporting Exclusion
TMA and the American Medical Association want to ensure certain educational programs and materials are excluded from Open Payments System reporting. In a letter, TMA, AMA, and dozens of medical organizations and specialty societies assert their support for HR 293 by Texas Congressman Michael C. Burgess, MD.

Supreme Court Ruling Maintains Six-Year Limit on Damage Claims
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has physicians who care for patients enrolled in federal health care programs breathing easier. The ruling in KBR v. United States of America Ex Relator Benjamin Carter prevents doctors from facing civil lawsuits for an unlimited period of time and maintains the six-year limitation on damage claims under the False Claims Act.

Revised Student Vaccine Requirements Available
The revised 2015-2016 Texas Minimum State Vaccine Requirements for Students Grade K-12 is now available from the Texas Department of State Health Services Immunization Branch. School administrators, health personnel, and parents will receive letters regarding the revised immunization requirements, which play a vital role in maintaining the health and well-being of Texas students.

Start the PQRS GPRO Registration Process Now
The Physician Value-Physician Quality Reporting System (PV-PQRS) registration system is open through June 30. This registration applies to group practices with two or more eligible professionals interested in participating in the 2015 PQRS program year under the group practice reporting option (GPRO).

DSHS Issues Mumps Health Advisory
Two students attending The University of Texas at Austin were diagnosed with mumps last month. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) issued a health advisory over concern there may be mumps cases appearing in other parts of the state. The advisory encourages physicians to "consider mumps as a diagnosis for any patients presenting with parotitis, orchitis, or other unexplained glandular swelling."

Bill Aims to Attract Mental Health Professionals
It's no surprise Texas is lacking in mental health professionals. A statewide survey sheds light on just how dire the situation is: 185 of Texas' 254 counties are without a psychiatrist. Overall, the state is home to just 4.1 psychiatrists per 1,000 patients, only slightly better than Nevada, Mississippi, and Idaho, nationally. Legislative efforts are in the works to try to attract more psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to underserved Texas communities.

Sunshine Act Reporting Exclusion Applies to Independent CME
In April CMS issued new frequently asked questions regarding when CME would be reportable in the Open Payments System. The new guidance states reporting is not triggered unless the manufacturer requires, instructs, directs, or otherwise causes the third party to provide the payment or transfer of value, in whole or in part, to a covered recipient.

Delegating and Supervising Prescribing Privileges for APRNs/PAs
New state law governing the delegation and supervision of prescribing privileges for advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants went into effect Nov. 1.  MembersOnlyRed

Congress Asks CMS to Ensure Smooth ICD-10 Transition
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) is asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to reassure physicians that the Oct. 1, 2015, ICD-10 implementation "will not cause widespread disruption." In a letter to CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, Representative Brady, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Richardson), and 12 other members of the House Ways and Means Committee outline steps the agency can take to instill confidence and address concerns among physicians and the public.

AMA Provides SGR Repeal Bill Summary, Timeline
The American Medical Association’s Legislative Counsel has prepared documents on the recently enacted Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), also known as HR 2.

TMA Membership Perk Offers HIPAA Security Compliance Help
Even though the HIPAA Omnibus Rule passed more than two years ago, HIPAA security compliance remains a top issue and concern for TMA members. To help, TMA Practice Consulting is now offering members discounted access to a new tool that can assist with HIPAA security compliance issues.

Help Patients Prepare for Emergencies, Disasters
Physicians can play a significant role in helping patients prepare and respond to disaster situations. Patients, especially those with fragile health, should be counseled on the importance of having a disaster plan in place for themselves and their families.

Meaningful Use Hardship Exemption Portal Now Open
Physicians who didn't meet meaningful use of electronic health records in 2014 will face a 2-percent penalty in 2016. If you think you are eligible for a 2016 exemption, you must file your exemption request by July 1, 2015.

HHSC Launches Policy Feedback Webpage
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has a new webpage that features a list of proposed Medicaid policy changes. Via the webpage, physicians and other medical practitioners, program clients, and the general public can give HHSC direct feedback regarding new medical and dental policies or changes to existing policies.

Latest CDC Texas HPV Vaccination Report Focuses on New 9-Valent Vaccine
Did you know that at its February meeting the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the 9-valent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as one of three HPV vaccines that can be used for females and one of two vaccines that can be used for males? You'll find details on the new vaccine along with Texas-specific information in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's third quarter HPV vaccination report.

Lawmakers Pass Pair of TMA's Priority Immunization Bills
Last week, the Texas House of Representatives gave initial approval to two of TMA's priority immunization bills, both authored by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville).

Preparing for EHR Divorce
It's said that choosing an electronic health record (EHR) system is like choosing a spouse. While the majority of EHR unions seem destined for happily ever after, that is not the case with all. Physicians should have an exit strategy as they enter the EHR vendor relationship. The best way to do this is to seek mutually agreeable contract terms.

Protect Yourself From Tax Fraud
TMA has heard from a handful of member physicians who recently discovered they're the victims of tax fraud. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Last year, more than 100 Texas Medical Association members notified the association someone had stolen their Social Security numbers and attempted to claim their tax refunds. The association learned the crime's victims also included physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, dentists, podiatrists, and pharmacists. Texas is one of 49 states and the District of Columbia affected by this con. So far, the perpetrators haven’t been caught.

Tax Relief, Medicaid Primary Care Pay Bump in Sight; Scope in Crosshairs
As hearings get under way and lawmakers scramble to fashion a budget at the halfway mark of the 2015 legislative session, graduate medical education funding and tax relief remain a focal point for the legislature, and the House of Medicine has made early progress on both fronts. Lawmakers also heard TMA's call to reinstate the Medicaid-Medicare parity payments for primary care.

Toolkit for Physicians Facing Medical Audits
A pair of upcoming webinars show you how to survive a medical audit and offer tips on preventing an audit in the first place.

Feds to Reduce Meaningful Use Reporting Burden
Responding to pressure from TMA and organized medicine, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Jan. 29 it plans to modify rules for the Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs to reduce the reporting burden on physicians.

Guard Your Practice Against Employee Theft
Medical practices are especially vulnerable to embezzlement, in part, because they are typically cash businesses. According to a 2009 Medical Group Management Association study, 83 percent of the medical practices polled had been the victim of employee theft or embezzlement. But because medical offices are run by a close-knit staff, it can be hard for a physician to imagine any employees stealing from the practice.

Find It, Fix It, Keep It: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Affordable Care Act: Find What’s Missing. Keep What Works. Fix What’s Broken.























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