Volume 17, No 13
March 30, 2015
SGR Repeal Flies Through House, Stalls in Senate
Behind the strong leadership of Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), and the bipartisan support of our Texas congressional delegation, the bill to repeal Medicare’s hated Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula won overwhelming approval in the U.S. House of Representatives. Leaders in the upper chamber promise the Senate will take up the bill quickly when Congress returns April 13 from its Easter recess. See Wednesday’s edition of TMA’s Action newsletter for details on how Medicare will handle claims for services provided after April 1.
Reps. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) and Gene Green (D-Houston) also cosponsored the bill, and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) pushed hard to ensure it included language protecting Texas’ medical liability reforms. In addition to Reps. Burgess, Brady, Green, and Cuellar, each of the following Texas members of Congress deserve thank-you letters or calls for their “yes” votes on HR 2, the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (see the TMA Grassroots Action Center for addresses and phone numbers for your representative): Reps. Ted Poe, Jeb Hensarling, Joe Barton, John Culberson, Al Green, Michael McCaul, Mike Conaway, Kay Granger, Mac Thornberry, Randy Weber, Beto O’Rourke, Bill Flores, Sheila Jackson Lee, Randy Neugebauer, Joaquin Castro, Lamar Smith, Pete Olson, Will Hurd, Roger Williams, Blake Farenthold, Eddie Bernice Johnson, John Carter, Pete Sessions, Marc Veasey, Filemon Vela, Lloyd Doggett, and Brian Babin.
TMA also appreciates the support of Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, and will work with him during the two-week recess to ensure the Senate passes the bill and quickly puts a stake into the SGR. I also urge you to send calls and letters of support into Sen. Ted Cruz’s office.
Another Round of Thank-Yous for TMA Members Testifying at the Legislature
Ten TMA member physicians took time away from their practice and took turns testifying for medicine in front of House and Senate committees last week. I send my wholehearted thanks and praise, and I think they deserve yours as well. In chronological order:
- John Holcomb, MD, of San Antonio, and Frank Cho, MD, of Austin testified before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on the sunset bills to reorganize Texas health and human services agencies. Dr. Holcomb also testified before the same panel for Senate Bill 207 by Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), which specifies that unintended billing errors or coding mistakes are decidedly not Medicaid fraud.
- Keller pediatrician Jason Terk, MD, testified before the House Public Health Committee in support of two bills by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), to improve immunizations. Dr. Terk also testified for five bills before that committee to curb minors’ access to e-cigarettes.
- Council on Legislation Chair Dawn Buckingham, MD, and Houston anesthesiologist Sherif Zaafran, MD, testified before the Senate Business and Commerce Committee on Senate Bill 481 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills). They expressed our serious concerns that the legislation eliminates the $1,000 threshold for mediation over bills from facility-based physicians for services provided out of network.
- Pain management specialists C.M. Schade, MD, of Mesquite and Richard Hurley, MD, of Waco testified before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for Senate Bill 195 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), which, among other things, does away with the state’s controlled substance registration.
- Leslie Secrest, MD, a Dallas psychiatrist, and Robert Greenberg, MD, a Temple emergency medicine physician, came before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to urge passage of Senate Bill 359 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas). The bill would permit physicians to initiate a four-hour hold on patients who have voluntarily sought care at a hospital or freestanding emergency medical center but then want to leave, though the treating physician believes the patient is a danger to self or others.
- Houston emergency medicine physician Arlo Weltge, MD, testified at the House State Affairs Committee hearing on House Bill 614 by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), which would require the state to establish a registry in which patients could submit their advance directives.
On the Road With Dr. King
With just more than a month left in his term, TMA President Austin King, MD, continues his nonstop travels on behalf of Texas physicians. His recent stops included a legislative update to the McLennan County Medical Society; the installation of Austin gastroenterologist Pradeep Kumar, MD, as the new president of the Travis County Medical Society; and a panel discussion at the leadership meeting of the Texas Society of Clinical Oncology that also included State Rep. Stephanie Click (R-Fort Worth) and TMA Trustee Lewis Foxhall, MD.
TMA's Choosing Wisely Campaign Has Made a Difference
We’ve closed the books on a very successful two-year campaign in support of the Choosing Wisely® program. The TMA Foundation received a grant from the ABIM Foundation to promote Choosing Wisely among Texas physicians. The program encourages physicians to discuss with patients the wisdom of many common tests or treatments that national specialty societies have identified as frequently unnecessary or inappropriate. Ninety-three percent of Texas physicians surveyed said they will continue to use Choosing Wisely in their practices. More than 600 physicians earned continuing medical education credit from our free — and ongoing — Choosing Wisely CME Bundle.