Rural Texas Physician

Fall 2015

Rural Texas Physician is a quarterly electronic newsletter catering to physicians in the many rural areas of Texas caring for patients and their communities. TMA’s grassroots membership is the strength of the association. For general inquiries or newsletter comments, email

Physicians: Reenroll in Medicaid by March 24

The Affordable Care Act requires all Medicaid health professionals to reenroll in the program at least once every five years (some professionals must reenroll more frequently). Physicians are next on the list and must reenroll by March 24, 2016. However, if you initially enrolled or reenrolled on or after Jan. 1, 2013, you have to reenroll by the date indicated on your enrollment letter. 

To be considered fully reenrolled in Medicaid by the March 24, 2016, deadline, physicians must receive verification from the Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership (TMHP) that the application has been approved before that date. It currently takes about 32 days for applications to be processed. Thus, physicians should reenroll early to avoid gaps in enrollment. The reenrollment requirement also applies to physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses. 

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission and TMHP have improved the electronic enrollment portal to make it easier for doctors to complete the reenrollment process. (Physicians newly enrolling in Medicaid can use the portal also.) The enhancements apply to applications submitted through the TMHP website on or after April 26, 2015. 

The improved electronic application process allows you to:      

  • Upload supporting documentation;
  • Sign the enrollment agreement electronically (e-sign);
  • Receive guidance as you work on the application and see more accurate error messages to avoid mistakes;
  • Receive instruction on how to upload documents and submit the application using an e-signature; and 
  • Expedite processing of your application by reducing the need for printing and mailing documents.      

For physicians currently enrolled in Medicaid, the portal will prepopulate the application with demographic data pulled from the physician’s current account. For more on the portal, read “Medicaid Upgrade” in the August issue of Texas Medicine

To use the online application, you must have a TMHP user account and a user name (portal user ID). Refer to the TMHP Website Security Provider Training Manual for instructions on activating a TMHP user account. For more information about Medicaid provider reenrollment, visit the TMHP provider reenrollment page

 Top of page

Loan Repayment Available for Physicians

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is accepting applications from primary care physicians and psychiatrists for the state’s Physician Education Loan Repayment Program.  

The program will cover up to $160,000 in loan repayment for physicians who commit to practicing in an underserved community for four years. More information is available on the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program website. Applications for this award cycle are due by Nov. 30, 2015. 

Top of page  

 Get Up to Speed on Internet Access in Rural Areas

Physicians living in rural areas may struggle to use technology for the meaningful use program, as well as general practice operations. While rural areas have limited Internet options, they are getting better. The Federal Communication Commission’s national broadband map allows you to search, analyze, and map broadband availability in your area. 

Before implementing technologies, you should understand the upload and download requirements to effectively run the software. You can then measure those requirements against a speed test of your own Internet. When conducting a speed test, be sure that no one else is using the Internet in the office. If someone is streaming a video, for example, that could severely affect the reliability of the speed test. It is also a good idea to run the speed test at multiple times. For example, conduct the test early in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening to see how results vary. If there is a notable disparity between the speed test results and what your Internet provider promised, you should contact your Internet provider. 

If you have health information technology (HIT) questions, contact TMA’s HIT Department by email or by calling (800) 880-5720.  

 Top of page

 Help Your Patients Choose the Right Flu Vaccine

It’s the perfect time to talk with your patients about getting their flu vaccination this year. An annual flu shot is recommended for anyone aged 6 months and older.  

Be prepared for your patients’ questions with these tools:   

  • This year’s flu vaccination options from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Help your patients determine which vaccine is right for them, including the high-dose vaccine for the elderly and the vaccine produced without eggs.
  • Flu activity tracking in Texas and more. 
  • Free flu education materials available from TMA’s Be Wise — ImmunizeSM program.  

Be Wise — Immunize will sponsor flu shot clinics around the state throughout October. Physician members, county medical societies, TMA Alliance chapters, and medical students will host the local events.  

TMA launched Be Wise — Immunize in 2004 to increase Texas’ immunization rates. Since then, the program has provided more than 280,000 shots to Texas children, adolescents, and adults.  

Be Wise — Immunize is a joint initiative led by TMA physicians and the TMA Alliance. Funding for Be Wise —Immunize is provided by the TMA Foundation thanks to generous support from H-E-B, TMF Health Quality Institute, Permian Basin Youth Chavarim, and gifts from physicians and their families.  

Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association. 

Top of page

Submit an Abstract for the 2016 Quality Poster Session

The TMA Council on Health Care Quality and TMF Health Quality Institute announce the fourth annual TMA Quality Poster Session to be held April 30 during TexMed 2016 at the Hilton Anatole Dallas.

The TMA Quality Poster Session is a platform for physicians and medical students to share their breakthroughs and best practices for better patient care, especially in one or more of the six aims of quality care: that it be safe, timely, effective, equitable, efficient, and patient-centered.

The TMA Quality Poster Session offers you a chance to gain exposure, network with physician colleagues, and have your work published. Here are just a few of the many reasons to participate:   

  • You will present your poster to physicians from across Texas during a continuing medical education event at TexMed 2016.
  • Your abstract will appear on the Texas Medical Association website, which draws more than 75,000 visitors each month.
  • The top-three winners in each category receive a cash award.  

Abstract submissions are due no later than March 25, 2016. All accepted poster exhibitors will receive a travel stipend. 

Please tell colleagues about this event so they can take advantage of this enriching opportunity. For more information, poster parameters, and submission categories, or to see last year’s abstracts, visit the TMA website.

 Top of page  

Deadline for Doctors

TMA’s Deadlines for Doctors alerts you and your staff to upcoming state and federal compliance timelines and offers information on key health policy issues that impact your practice.  Nov. 9, 2015  

   Top of page   

 Save the Date

Mark your calendar for the 2016 TMA Winter Conference Jan. 29-30 at the Hyatt Regency Austin. General session programming is under development, and a full list of the business meetings for boards, councils, and committees will be posted soon. In the meantime, make your hotel reservation early. The conference provides an opportunity for physicians and medical students to conduct TMA business, obtain continuing medical education, and network with peers. 

Top of page   


Comment on this (Must be logged in to comment)

Add Comment

Text Only 2000 character limit

Looking for more?