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Pandemic Pressures:COVID-19 Poses Serious Behavioral Health Challenges - 09/20/2022

The mental health fallout caused by COVID-19 radiates throughout Texas. In this issue, we look at four of the biggest challenges physicians are responding to as more people say that worry and stress related to coronavirus have negatively impacted their mental health.


Reaching for the Cure: Texas Medicaid Doesn't Cover Hep C Drugs Until Patients Are Seriously Ill - 09/07/2022

Infectious disease specialist Ogechika Alozie, MD, has a ready-made solution for patients diagnosed with hepatitis C now that five medications can rid patients of this deadly disease. But for Texas Medicaid patients, there’s a catch. The program does not pay for the cure based just on a diagnosis. Instead, Medicaid pays only after a blood test, biopsy, or sonogram shows the liver is so badly damaged that it’s on the verge of cirrhosis. At that point, patients who get the medication will be cured of their hepatitis C but more vulnerable to other deadly illnesses, like liver cancer.


Novavax COVID Vaccine Available to Help Reach Patients Hesitant About mRNA Vaccines - 09/06/2022

The recently introduced COVID-19 vaccine Novavax gives physicians another tool for combating the disease, and it enjoys two important differences from previous vaccines that are potential advantages, says San Antonio infectious disease specialist Charles Lerner, MD, a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force.


Hurricane Harvey: One Year Later - 09/01/2022

Studies of the public health, mental health, and environmental effects of the storm could take years to complete. Meanwhile, physician practices share their own lessons learned.


Federal Telehealth Extension Bill Advances to Senate - 08/31/2022

Signaling strong support to build on the COVID-19-era gains in telemedicine, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would extend Medicare’s telehealth payment and regulatory flexibilities through the end of 2024, should the public health emergency end before then.


Use This Permission Letter to Excuse Students from School Due to COVID-19 - 08/31/2022

If you treat students suspected of exposure to COVID-19, the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force has created a draft letter you can use to document the patient's excusal or return to school.


New COVID Boosters Expected for Fall; Preorder by Aug. 30 - 08/29/2022

With new COVID-19 boosters on the horizon targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron strains of the virus, Texas health officials have opened up preorders for these latest vaccines, which are expected to roll out this fall.


Public Health Emergency’s End Would Kickstart Medicaid Eligibility Re-Checks. Here’s How to Prepare - 08/19/2022

After strong advocacy by the American Medical Association and other organizations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services appears poised to extend the COVID-19 public health emergency for a 10th time.


Health Commissioner Reflects on Texas’ Pandemic Response, Honored by State Senate - 08/18/2022

Nearly two and a half years after the first positive COVID-19 test result was reported in Texas, Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, is taking stock of what happened next and how to prevent the next pandemic.


Purchase Bebtelovimab Directly From Distributor Starting Aug. 15 - 08/18/2022

With federally funded distribution of the COVID-19 therapeutic bebtelovimab coming to an end, physicians must now purchase the monoclonal antibody directly from the distributor starting the week of Aug. 15, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.


Physicians Alarmed by Sharp Spike in Accidental Overdose Deaths Fueled by Illegal Drugs - 08/16/2022

A surge in accidental opioid overdose deaths in Texas is showing no signs of slowing down, and Texas physicians warn the rise in illegally produced drugs laced with fentanyl are to blame. They also say increasing the availability of life-saving, overdose-reversing drugs like naloxone, as well as addiction treatment programs, can help.


State of Public Health in Texas Focus of Distinguished Speaker Event - 08/10/2022

John W. Hellerstedt, MD, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner, will address the state’s public health priorities at a Distinguished Speaker Series event hosted by the Texas Public Health Coalition (TPHC) and the Texas Medical Association (TMA).


Feds Launch Evusheld Ordering Route for Smaller Entities, Quantities - 08/05/2022

Small physician practices now have a new way to access the COVID-19 preexposure drug Evusheld, and in smaller amounts. Practices also can benefit from a new helpline for information on the monoclonal antibody treatment that helps prevent COVID-19 infection among immunocompromised patients at high risk of severe illness.


Texas Sales Tax Holiday Includes Masks – Help Patients Prepare for School - 08/02/2022

The first day of the new school year is right around the corner, unfortunately during a time of rising COVID-19 cases. Fortunately, you can help promote healthy school environments during the pandemic and help your patients prepare starting with Texas’ sales tax holiday this weekend.


Talk to Patients About: Human Papillomavirus Vaccine - 07/29/2022

The vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most effective life-saving measures in medicine, and yet it has long suffered from poor public perception.


Challenge of a Lifetime: Jennifer Shuford, MD, Helped Lead Texas Through the COVID-19 Pandemic - 07/29/2022

Chief State Epidemiologist Jennifer Shuford, MD, found innovative ways to lead Texas through the COVID-19 emergency.


Long COVID's Long Shadow: Physicians Respond to an Influx of Long-COVID Patients - 07/29/2022

Long COVID has strained an already overburdened health care system and requires both multispecialty clinics and primary care physicians to meet demand.


Coming Soon at TMA: “The State of Public Health in Texas” - 07/26/2022

Join the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Public Health Coalition – in-person or via streaming – as John Hellerstedt, MD, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, reports on “The State of Public Health in Texas” on Thursday, Aug. 11, from noon to 1 pm CT.


CDC Authorizes Novavax Adult COVID Vaccine - 07/22/2022

There’s now a fourth COVID-19 vaccine option available in the U.S. after the federal government gave emergency use authorization to the Novavax vaccine for adults.


Texas’ Expanded Medical Cannabis Program: What You Need to Know - 07/19/2022

Legal uses for medical cannabis in Texas have reached an all-time high. Soaring even higher is interest in the Texas Compassionate Use Program under which physicians can prescribe it.


Q&A: The COVID Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 Subvariants - 07/19/2022

COVID-19’s ability to mutate into faster-spreading variants and subvariants makes it a dangerous moving target for physicians and other health care professionals.


DSHS: Consider Paxlovid as COVID Cases Rise - 07/13/2022

With Texas’ COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers on a recent upward swing, the state is reminding physicians about the therapeutics available to treat high-risk patients with mild to moderate COVID-19.


“Black Robes, Not White Coats”: Can Courts Compel Unproven Treatments? - 06/29/2022

COVID-19 patients and their families have involved judges and attorneys in an effort to compel physicians to treat the disease in unproven ways, against their medical judgment. And in some cases around the country, patients’ families have been successful in getting a court order to do so. The Texas Medical Association’s Committee on Patient-Physician Advocacy, while not directly involved in such cases, has a keen interest in making sure physicians can exercise their medical judgment.


“Fight the Good Fight:” Fleeger Awarded TMA’s Highest Honor - 06/29/2022

The Texas Medical Association bestowed its highest honor upon Austin colon and rectal surgeon David C. Fleeger, MD, for his confident leadership during difficult times and his longtime advocacy for medicine at the state and national levels.


Talk to Patients About: Natural Immunity vs. Vaccine Immunity for COVID-19 - 06/29/2022

Catching COVID-19 can provide people with a degree of immunity from being reinfected with the disease in the future. This prompts some to opt against vaccination and instead risk getting sick to obtain this “natural immunity” on the assumption they will get a mild case and it will protect them from future illness.