Stories written by Joey Berlin

TMA Asks Governor for Liability Protections During COVID-19 - 04/06/2020

As physicians and other health care workers risk their health, stretch themselves thin, and deal with uncertain availability of resources to fight COVID-19, the Texas Medical Association is asking Gov. Greg Abbott to restrict litigation stemming from the pandemic.


Pharmacy Board Limits Chloroquine Prescriptions - 04/06/2020

The Texas State Board of Pharmacy is limiting prescriptions of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, mefloquine, and azithromycin amid reports that hospitals and prescribers are stocking up on some of those drugs even though they are not proven to treat COVID-19 effectively.


Seeking a Measure of Reason: TMA Joins Collaborative to Standardize Quality Metrics - 03/31/2020

TMA joins collaborative seeking to identify and standardize quality metrics.


Going Nowhere: APM Committee Resignations Cast Doubt on Payment Models' Future - 03/31/2020

Resignations from HHS advisory committee cast doubt on future of physician-created alternative payment models.


“Absurd” Contract Dodge Rejected: Court Lets Cancer Center’s Debt-Collection Suit Proceed - 03/31/2020

Appeals court denies “free speech” challenge to cancer center’s debt-collection suit.


Back to the Heart - 03/31/2020

Cancer survivor Lee Tomlinson will stress compassionate care at TexMed 2020.


TMA Brings its Fite: Incoming TMA President Diana Fite, MD - 03/31/2020

Incoming TMA President Diana Fite, MD, plans to take on low Medicaid pay and the litany of intrusions taking time away from patient care and contributing to physician burnout


Late Medical Bills Won’t Be a Reason for Workers’ Comp Claims Denials, State Says - 03/26/2020

The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation says late filings of medical bills will fall under the law’s “catastrophic event” exception due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


CMS Postpones 2019 MIPS Reporting Deadline to April 30 - 03/23/2020

With a key deadline for clinicians in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System approaching fast amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is giving those clinicians a month of extra time to submit their data.


Workers’ Comp COVID-19 Claims Require Work-Related Connection, Officials Say - 03/23/2020

As cases of COVID-19 mount in Texas and across the U.S., some patients who test positive for the disease might file a claim under their workers’ compensation insurance if they believe they contracted COVID-19, or the coronavirus that causes the disease, as a result of their work. Under workers compensation, injured workers must prove their infection was work-related, the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) notes. If they don’t, their claim may be denied. And claim denials, of course, mean those workers’ physicians may have trouble getting paid.


TDI Fines Blue Cross $10 Million for Delays, Errors - 03/11/2020

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas will pay a $10 million fine for providing consumers incorrect information, delays in out-of-network claims processing, and errors in marketing materials, the Texas Department of Insurance has announced.


TMA Keeps Pressing Congress on Surprise Billing - 03/09/2020

As lawmakers continue their work on a federal solution to surprise medical bills, the Texas Medical Association is on guard to make sure patients will be protected – and physicians get a fair shot to get paid properly. TMA joined 18 other state medical and specialty societies on a letter last week to the chairs and ranking members of three U.S. House committees.  


TMA to TMB: Let Docs Decide Whether In-Person Visit Needed For Subsequent Opioid Scrips - 03/06/2020

The Texas Medical Association has some suggestions for the Texas Medical Board on how to implement the state’s new 10-day limit on opioid prescriptions for acute pain. A letter to the board says it should be up to the physician’s judgment whether a non-initial 10-day prescription for acute pain requires seeing a patient in-person.


Making Billing More Balanced: Congress Considers Surprise Billing Legislation - 03/05/2020

The widespread call to severely curb or end “surprise” medical bills prompted competing federal legislation during the summer and fall of 2019. The negotiations, maneuvering, and bill markups have continued into this year.   


How to Talk to Patients About the PMP - 02/28/2020

Michael Mackert, PhD, director of the Center for Health Communication at The University of Texas at Austin, addressed physicians’ concerns about talking to patients about the PMP, which prescribers will be required to check before issuing any prescription for opioids, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or carisoprodol beginning March 1.  


Taking Their Lumps? TMA Works to Reverse Decision on Future Medical Expenses - 02/28/2020

Does a court have full discretion to decide how much of an award for future medical expenses is paid in periodic payments versus a lump sum? The 4th Court of Appeals said yes, allowing a patient to collect the majority of a $3 million award up front. Medicine is concerned the ruling goes against a tort reform protection requiring periodic payments to be based on evidence the jury used to determine the future-medical award. That ensures patients get the compensation they are due for their future medical expenses but only when they need it.


The PMP Requirement Begins - 02/28/2020

With EHR integration in place, physicians must check the state prescription monitoring program (PMP) prior to prescribing an opioid starting March 1.


Feds Offer Strategies For Tackling EHR Burden - 02/27/2020

The federal government is hoping to give physicians a hand in managing the burdens of one of their foremost time-eaters: Electronic health records (EHRs). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week released a report titled Strategy on Reducing Regulatory and Administrative Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs.


Not Seeing Eye to Eye: Physician Employment of Optometrists Tested - 02/18/2020

A state board’s concerns over stopping conflicts of interest and a physician’s right to employ and delegate treatment to other professionals are colliding head-on. Now, it’s up to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to sort out what, in his view, the state’s optometry law allows.


Preserving Do No Harm: Supreme Court Tosses Challenge to Medical Ethics Committee Law. - 02/18/2020

Twenty years after it took effect, Texas’ medical ethics committee review law has withstood challenge after challenge. The Texas Supreme Court is on the verge of ending the latest high-profile attack on the law that ensures physicians can uphold their professional obligation to “do no harm.” In October 2019, the state’s high court declined to take up Kelly v. Houston Methodist Hospital, in which the mother of a deceased patient attempted to overturn a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act. Justices’ action leaves intact an appeals court decision that preserves physicians’ ability to use their medical judgment in end-of-life cases.


Beware of Phony TMB or DEA Agents - 02/05/2020

The Texas Medical Board (TMB) is warning physicians and pharmacies of a scam involving criminals who sometimes pose as TMB officials. TMB passed along a report from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that says physicians registered with the DEA are receiving calls and emails from criminals who identify themselves as DEA personnel or other law enforcement agents.


Youth Safeguards, Budget Boons - 02/03/2020

The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Public Health Coalition, and diligent physicians earned significant public health victories during the Texas Legislature's 2015 session in their drive to reduce tobacco and electronic cigarette use and to protect schoolchildren at risk for anaphylaxis.


Arbitration Law Will be “Messy,” Bring Operational Concerns, Panelists Say - 01/31/2020

 The state’s new law allowing arbitration of payment disputes on certain out-of-network care carries concerns for physicians and uncertainty about what it will look like from an enforcement standpoint, a panel told the Texas Medical Association Winter Conference on Saturday morning.


Texas' New Surprise Billing Law: Are You Ready? - 01/29/2020

Texas’ baseball-style arbitration law takes effect for certain out-of-network medical care beginning Jan. 1, 2020. It’s a big change from how disputes on out-of-network medical bills have been handled in the past – and you need to know how to navigate it. There are nuances to consider, and disciplinary action from the Texas Medical Board (TMB) may await you if you balance-bill in violation of the law. That’s why the Texas Medical Association has produced a digestible, seven-page summary of the surprise-billing law.


TDI Explains Arbitration Law Process - 01/28/2020

Before you’re involved in an out-of-network medical bill dispute that would be covered by the state’s new baseball-style arbitration law, it’s best to know what could be in store.  The Texas Department of Insurance has provided further details on how the law will be implemented, including how the arbitration process will work.