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Volume 16, No 39

Nov. 24, 2014


VISIT REVEALS A CHANCE, HOWEVER SLIM, OF SGR REPEAL THIS YEAR: Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula repeal this year is a definite maybe. That’s the feedback 16 members of the Coalition of State Medical Societies received from our visits on Capitol Hill last week. Congressional leaders remain committed to repealing Medicare’s SGR formula, we heard. The big question remains whether the stars will align for that to happen in the few legislative days that remain before Congress adjourns for the year early next month. The SGR will mandate a 21-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare payments on April 1, 2015, if Congress doesn’t intervene. The Texas delegation for the visits included former TMA Board of Trustees Chair Carlos Cardenas, MD; our chief lobbyist, Darren Whitehurst; and me. The other states in the coalition are California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, South and North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York.

TEXAS RETAINS CLOUT ON KEY HOUSE HEALTH PANELS: Committee appointments in the U.S. House of Representatives for next year were announced while we were in Washington, D.C. Three good friends of Texas medicine will be very well placed to influence issues like SGR reform and the repeal of onerous federal regulations. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) will remain as chair of the Subcommittee on Health of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) will become the “ranking member,” or lead Democrat, on the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), will be the third-ranked Republican on the subcommittee. TMA has excellent relationships with all three congressmen and their staffs.

LINEUP SET FOR TMA ADVOCACY RETREAT, DEC. 5-6: We have some special treats in store for the TMA 2014 Advocacy Retreat, Dec. 5-6, at Barton Creek Resort in Austin. The highlight, as always, will be the round-robin sharing of key legislative priorities from TMA and the state specialty societies. (Our priorities are outlined in Healthy Vision 2020, Second Edition.) Friday night’s dinner speaker, giving an update on the political landscape and a preview of the 2015 legislative session, is James R. Henson, PhD, director of the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin. For our closing luncheon Saturday afternoon, we’ve secured four physician members of the Texas Legislature: Sen. Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels; and Reps. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood); J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville); and John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton). Saturday morning’s agenda features breakout sessions for media training, lobby training, and social media advocacy training. Hope to see you there.

TMA WINS APPEALS COURT RULING IN SCOPE CASE: The Texas Third Court of Appeals sided with TMA in our challenge of a Marriage and Family Therapists Board rule that would have allowed therapists to diagnose. “We conclude that the diagnosis of mental diseases or disorders is excluded from the statutory scope of practice for licensed marriage and family therapists,” the court ruled. This case is one of an ongoing series of legal challenges we have mounted to stop state regulatory agencies from expanding allied health practitioners’ scope of practice beyond the authority granted by the Texas Legislature. In the legislature, we continue to oppose expansion of practitioners’ scope beyond what is safely permitted by their education, skills, and training.

PHYSICIANS FOUNDATION PANEL AIRS HEALTH CARE CHALLENGES FOR D.C. AUDIENCE: Former TMA President Sue Bailey, MD, took part in a three-physician panel organized in D.C. by The Physicians Foundation. Denton OB-Gyn Joe Valenti, MD, moderated the panel, which explored the changing dynamics of medical practices and how those changes are affecting practicing physicians and patients. The audience included U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, MD (R-Tenn.), a variety of congressional staffers, and several reporters. The discussion keyed off of the findings of the foundation’s biennial physicians survey, which shows more than 80 percent of America’s physicians are overextended or at full capacity. The survey “reflects a mood among doctors that is still uncertain and sometimes dispirited, but which is evolving. Relative to the national surveys The Physicians Foundation conducted in 2012 and 2008, doctors are somewhat more positive in their outlook.”

HAPPY THANKSGIVING: We all have so much to be thankful for — I’m thankful that we’ve reached the 48,000 mark in TMA membership. That means we can do so much more for you. EVPGram will take its annual Turkey Day Holiday next Monday. We’ll be back in your in box on Dec. 8.


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