Volume 17, No 12
March 23, 2015
Flood Capitol Hill With SGR Calls Tomorrow
Over the years, every member of the Texas Delegation in Congress has told us that he or she supports repeal of Medicare’s noxious Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula. Now is the time to hold them to their promises. We have just one week to get it done before Congress goes on recess and the 22.4-percent cut kicks in on April 1. HR 1470, the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2015, by our own U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), will be up for a vote on the House floor this week. It eliminates the SGR immediately, ensures solid — if nonspectacular — Medicare rate increases the next five years, and offers a bonus for physicians who participate in alternative payment models and meet certain thresholds. Any of us could find fault with one or more provisions in the bill, but, bottom line, it’s immensely better than the status quo. As TMA President Austin King, MD, said in his email Action Alert to all of our members, “We physicians are tired of the never-ending uncertainty; the never-ending threats to cut Medicare pay; the never-ending need to lobby Congress on the same, never-ending problem. Our patients are tired of the never-ending fear of losing their doctor. Eighteen years and 17 patches is enough.” If you didn’t already respond to the Action Alert, you have another chance to help us turn up the heat on the House. Tomorrow is National Call to Action Day on the SGR, organized by the American Medical Association, TMA, and medical societies nationwide. Contact your senators and representative and urge them to support HR 1470 (and its companion, S 810) by:
- Calling via AMA’s toll-free Physicians Grassroots Hotline at (800) 833-6354.
- Using the TMA Grassroots Hotline to send an urgent email.
- Contacting legislators directly through their own social media channels, and then sharing your message with your own Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
Legislature Gets a Healthy Dose of Health Vision
It was a busy and productive week for medicine’s priorities in the 84th Texas Legislature:
- The Senate Finance Committee took up Senate Bill 18 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) Thursday. The measure aims to allocate an additional $60 million for graduate medical education (GME) expansions. The funding would sustain the 2013 GME expansion programs while building other programs to improve access to care.
- San Antonio pediatrician Ryan Van Ramshorst, MD, continued his all-star work on the witness stand for TMA and the Texas Pediatric Society. He told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee that Texas physicians strongly support Senate Bill 760 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), which would improve oversight and accountability of Medicaid HMOs’ physician networks. He also testified on Senate Bill 791 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) requiring the state to develop and distribute educational materials for pregnant women or women planning a pregnancy about congenital cytomegalovirus. He explained physicians support the education and outreach components outlined in SB 791, but we have concerns with the state dictating specific medical treatments.
- The Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 96 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes on school property.
- The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee took up House Bill 1433 by Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) to prevent insurance company delays in adopting appropriate payment for immunizations, serums, and vaccines. The bill was negotiated by TMA to protect the basis for prompt-pay penalties and to prevent efforts to reduce the penalty to 18 percent per year.
TMA PracticeEdge Board Appoints CEO, Elects Officers
The Board of Managers of TMA PracticeEdge, our new physician services organization, met for the first time. The board chose me to be the new company’s CEO. Board officers are Don Read, MD, of Dallas, chair; Shara McClure of Dallas, vice president for network management of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, vice chair; and Doug Curran, MD, of Athens, secretary/treasurer. Drs. Read and Curran are also chair and vice chair, respectively, of the TMA Board of Trustees. The other members of the Board of Managers are TMA Trustee David Fleeger, MD, of Austin; TMA Trustee Dan McCoy, MD, of Dallas; and Rob Morrow, MD, of Houston. We will be making some important announcements about our first clients, affiliations, and services in the next few weeks.
Two New TMA Publications Help You Get Social, Get Answers, Get CME
I’m pleased to announce two new practice management publications — written by the TMA staff — now available in the TMA Education Center:
- More than a decade ago, we established the TMA Knowledge Center to answer members’ questions about everything from maintaining medical records to closing a practice to filling out government forms. Now we’ve collected the best of those questions and answers into a new book. You’ve Got Questions? We Have Answers: A Collection of FAQs From the TMA Knowledge Center offers 1.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ and has been designated for 1.5 credit(s) of education in medical ethics and/or professional responsibility. Of course, the Knowledge Center will still answer all of your fresh questions. Call (800) 880-7955 or send an email.
- Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs. Who knew they would go from young peoples’ playthings to serious marketing tools? Get Social: Put Your Practice on the Social Media Map is about you and your practice and your patients, and how you can make these tools help you do a better job of building your practice and your reputation and caring for your patients. It’s also about 1.75 hours of continuing medical education.