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Volume 17, No 3

Jan. 20, 2015


NEW LEADERS AND OUR HEALTHY VISION: Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took their oaths of office today, the first time in more than a decade that Texas has had new top leaders. House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), who was easily reelected to his fourth term last week, provides a degree of continuity as the 2015 Texas Legislature begins its work. The second edition of TMA’s Healthy Vision 2020 lays out our agenda for the session. Here are our top 10 recommendations: Increase funding for graduate medical education; improve physicians’ Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program payments to more appropriately reflect the services they provide to patients; hold health insurance companies accountable for creating and promoting adequate physician networks; devise and enact a system for providing health care to low-income Texans that improves efficiencies by reducing bureaucracy and paperwork; stop any efforts to expand scope of practice beyond that safely permitted by nonphysician practitioners’ education, training, and skills; promote government efficiency and accountability by reducing Medicaid red tape; protect physicians’ ability to charge for their services; improve the state’s public health defense to better respond in a crisis; preserve Texas’ landmark medical liability reforms; and protect the patient-physician relationship from corporate and political intrusions.

TMA EYES HEALTH CARE FOR STATE WORKERS: As the increasing cost of health care for state employees and retirees — particularly hospitalizations and outpatient services — grabs state budget writers’ attention, TMA senior staff met with Ann Bishop, executive director of the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS), and members of her executive team to discuss potential issues for the legislative session. Ms. Bishop stated that physician services were not the driver of increased costs in ERS health care services. We also discussed the development of narrow networks for state workers and the need to hold UnitedHealthcare accountable for the adequacy of its network and for ensuring undue costs were not being placed on state employees. TMA will continue to work with ERS and other state agencies during the legislative process to ensure enrollees receive adequate coverage and access and that physicians are paid timely and appropriately for the services they deliver.

TMLT AND TMA WORK TO PROTECT LIABILITY REFORMS: TMA and Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT) leaders met to discuss prefiled legislation and potential issues that the Texas Legislature might consider over the next 132 days. Our principal concern is ensuring that no legislation passes that would negatively impact the hard-fought tort reforms enacted in 2003. With strong support from the big three — Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick, and Speaker Straus — as well as widespread support from members of the Texas Senate and Texas House, we are optimistic these reforms can be protected. TMLT was created by the Texas Legislature in 1979 to provide medical liability coverage to TMA members. TMLT is the largest and most respected medical liability provider in the state, protecting more than 17,000 Texas physicians of all specialties, practice types, and locations.

DR. KING WELCOMES NEW COUNTY SOCIETY LEADERS: TMA President Austin King, MD, is in the middle of a whirlwind tour of Texas this month, helping to install new county medical society leaders and sharing TMA’s Healthy Vision 2020 legislative agenda. He started in Tyler, where cardiologist Kyle Smith, MD, is the new president of the Smith County Medical Society, and then went to Amarillo for the installation of nephrologist Tarek Naguib, MD, as the new president of the Potter-Randall County Medical Society. The next night, in Houston, Dr. King celebrated the installation of Bradford Patt, MD, an otolaryngologist and facial plastic surgeon, as the 114th president of the Harris County Medical Society, and internist Lisa Ehrlich, MD, as the new president of the Houston Academy of Medicine. After that, he made legislative presentations to the Henderson and the Midland county medical societies. Dr. King is on the road again this week. We’ll update you as soon as we catch our breath.

PUBLIC HEALTH COALITION SETS 2015 PRIORITIES: The TMA-led Texas Public Health Coalition, which now has grown to 30 member organizations, has established its 2015 legislative agenda to “promote good health and save taxpayers’ dollars.” The priorities are: stop texting while driving (a new agenda item for 2015), support state funding for cancer prevention and research, improve immunizations for Texans of all ages, support physical activity and healthy food initiatives in Texas schools and underserved communities, and support smoke-free legislation and regulation of e-cigarettes.  

WINTER CONFERENCE HEADLINER OPINES ON SGR: Harold Miller, who will deliver the Dawn Duster at 2015 TMA Winter Conference on Jan. 31, offers some insightful suggestions for Congress on how to pay for the repeal of Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula in a new white paper. “The way to pay for repealing the SGR isn’t to cut physician payments in another way, cut payments to other providers, refuse to pay for services Medicare beneficiaries need, or make cuts in other programs,” he writes. “The solution is to change the way Medicare pays for health care so that physicians can change the way they deliver care, thereby enabling patients to get better care with less total spending.”


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