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Volume 16, No 38

Nov. 17, 2014


COALITION HEADS TO CAPITOL HILL TO WORK SGR AND OVERREGULATION: The 10 members of the Coalition of State Medical Societies are off to Washington this week to lobby the lame duck Congress on two of medicine’s key issues. We’ll be asking, once again, for repeal of Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which will mandate a 21-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare payments on April 1, 2015, if Congress doesn’t intervene. We’ll also be pushing for the repeal of onerous federal regulations — like the ICD-10 conversion, big improvements in the Recovery Audit Program (RAC program), and standard electronic prior authorization processes for all insurance companies. The Texas delegation will include 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. I’ll report on our progress next week. 

ASK CONGRESS TODAY FOR TWO-YEAR ICD-10 DELAY: Have you faxed or mailed your letter to your U.S. representative yet, asking him or her to support a two-year delay in ICD-10? Texans in House leadership tell us there’s a good chance we can move the mandatory ICD-10 implementation date backward two more years from Oct. 1, 2015. But it will take a grassroots show of support from medicine. Cut and paste our sample letter onto your personal stationery, then send it to your representative by mail or by fax. It’s important the letter is on your personal stationery. And please add your own reasons why ICD-10 is a bad idea.

 AMA HOUSE ADDRESSES MOC, MEANINGFUL USE, AND INADEQUATE NETWORKS: Some of medicine’s thorniest issues received serious attention last week when the American Medical Association House of Delegates met in Dallas. The delegates:

  • Adopted new policy that maintenance of certification (MOC) exams should be evidence-based and relevant to clinical practice, and not be a “mandated requirement for licensure, credentialing, payment, network participation or employment.”
  • Called on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to suspend all penalties for failing to meet meaningful use criteria.
  • Said the states need to continue to be the enforcers of inadequate network rules for health insurance plans and called on insurers to publish “accurate, complete directories of participating physicians” on paper and electronically. Plans with inadequate networks, the house said, should “treat patient visits to out-of-network physicians the same as in-network visits.” 
  • Said minors should not be allowed to buy e-cigarettes.
  • Backed interstate compacts to make it easier for physicians to obtain licenses in multiple states.

 OUR DEEPEST SYMPATHIES TO DR. FITE AND HER FAMILY: I am very sad to have to share the news that Anna Floyd, the daughter of TMA Board of Trustees member Diana Fite, MD, died suddenly last week. Mrs. Floyd, age 33, had three young children, including a 1-year-old baby. The family will receive visitors tomorrow from 5 to 7 pm at One Life Church, 16920 N. Texas Ave. in Webster, Texas. A service will follow at 7 pm. 

 TMA TO FEDS: SUSPEND BAD MEANINGFUL USE MEASURES: This is one of the many reasons physicians are starting to call it “meaningless use.” Many patients, especially elderly ones, have no desire to access their health records online, and physicians should not be forced to coerce them to do it, TMA President Austin King, MD, said in a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. But that’s what meaningful use core measures 7 and 17 try to do, and physicians’ inability to meet them is responsible for the very low levels of doctors attesting to stage 2 of meaningful use. Dr. King asked CMS to suspend those measurers immediately and to “work with Congress to suspend all meaningful use physician penalties set to begin Jan. 1, 2015.”

VALLEY WINS APPROVAL OF NEW SURGERY RESIDENCY: A new general surgery residency program will open next summer in the Rio Grande Valley. Congratulations to The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has approved the program, which will have four surgical residency slots.


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