Action: Feb. 1, 2011


TMA Action Feb. 1, 2011
News and Insights from Texas Medical Association


INSIDE: TMA Supports National Tort Reform Bill


TMA Supports National Tort Reform Bill
Save Medicine on Tuesdays
Legislative Hotline Keeps You Informed
Renew Your Dues Today
DSHS Cites Newborn Screening Problem
FDA, CDC Report Fluzone-Related Seizures
Medicaid Changes VDP Preauthorization  

TexMed 2011 Set May 13-14 in Houston
What's Up With TMB?
Lunar Bone Densitometer For Sale
Medicaid EHR Incentive Payments in May
This Month in Texas Medicine
Do You Twitter? Follow TMA

TMA Supports National Tort Reform Bill

Congress should pass proposed legislation reforming the nation's medical liability system as long as it "in no way preempts the state reforms that have been won in Texas and other states," TMA President Susan Rudd Bailey, MD, said in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas).  

Dr. Bailey sent the letter to show TMA's support for the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011, filed by Representatives Smith, Phil Gingrey, MD (R-Ga.), and David Scott (D-Ga.). In addition to a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, the bill requires medical liability suits to be filed within three years of the injury in most cases.

"TMA has long supported the enactment of fair, federal medical liability reforms," Dr. Bailey said. She added that TMA previously supported similar legislation by Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Texas), "and will do so again because we know of the very positive effects the 2003 Texas reforms have had on access to care and the growing number of physicians who have relocated to Texas because of our fair and stable liability climate."

TMA's letter is in addition to a letter of endorsement that the American Medical Association and 100 other physicians and medical organizations sent to the bill's sponsors.

"The proven reforms contained in the HEALTH Act would help reduce costs, while ensuring that patients who have been injured due to negligence receive just compensation," that letter said. "This bill provides the right balance of reforms by promoting speedier resolutions to disputes, maintaining access to courts, maximizing patient recovery of damage awards with unlimited compensation for economic damages, while limiting noneconomic damages to a quarter million dollars. In addition, the HEALTH Act protects effective state medical liability reform laws."

Previous attempts to pass national medical liability reform failed, primarily because of opposition in the Senate. In his State of the Union speech Jan. 25, President Obama said he is "willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year – medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits."



Save Medicine on Tuesdays

With the state facing a $30 billion budget deficit, the 2011 Texas Legislature could be disastrous for medicine in Texas. Lawmakers will look for ways to save money, and health care could face potentially devastating funding cuts. Trial lawyers will try to erode the historic tort reforms physicians fought so hard for in 2003, hospitals will try once again to crack the state's ban on the corporate practice of medicine, and advance practice nurses and other nonphysician practitioners will battle for the right to practice independently.

This is where you come in. You can work to save health care funding by lobbying lawmakers and explaining to them how vital it is to preserve and enhance health care funding in Texas. Your patients depend on you. 

How can you help? The easiest way is to come to Austin and make your voice heard during First Tuesdays at the Capitol Feb. 1, March 1, April 5, and May 3. Lobbying tips, legislative briefings and debriefings, and personal visits to legislators' offices are all part of First Tuesdays at the Capitol.

First Tuesdays have been incredibly successful since they began in 2003. Lawmakers say seeing all those white lab coats in their offices and in the Capitol galleries and hallways make a difference. They listen when their hometown doctors show up in their offices.

"Caring for Patients in a Time of Change" is TMA's theme for this session. TMA President Susan Rudd Bailey, MD, says "this message reminds each of us – as well as our patients and state officials and candidates for office and the general public – that caring for patients is what we do. It's what we do regardless of the environment. It's what cements that bond with our patients and their families. And it's what makes our profession so special."

It is absolutely essential for medicine to engage the representatives and senators early and often. TMA and the TMAAlliance are calling on you. Be a medical lobbyist for a day. You will make a difference.   


Legislative Hotline Keeps You Informed

While you are going about your day, the Texas Legislature is in Austin making decisions that affect your practice. You can stay informed about what lawmakers are doing by signing up for TMA's Legislative Hotline.

The Hotline is a daily newsletter for TMA members only. Delivered to your e-mail inbox, the newsletter tracks issues affecting medicine and reports on the latest actions of the legislature. The Hotline is delivered each legislative day before noon during the 140-day session. A weekly recap, delivered each Friday, also is available.


Renew Your Dues Today

Please don't wait any longer to renew your membership in TMA and your county medical society. The 2011 Texas Legislature has begun, and it will be 140 very difficult days for medicine.

Legislators already have filed bills that expand the scope of practice of nonphysician practitioners and threaten physicians' independent medical judgment through direct employment of physicians. Additionally, the projected $30 billion budget shortfall means big cuts could be in store for Medicaid, graduate medical education, and public health programs.

No one is better equipped to fight for and serve you in these difficult times than TMA and your county medical society. We have a plan, and we need your help to be successful. Only with grassroots support can we kill or amend the bad bills and pass the ones that are good for medicine and patients. Renew today! Installment options are available.

For more information, call the TMA Knowledge Center at (800) 880-7955 or e-mail


e-MDs Ad  


DSHS Cites Newborn Screening Problem

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) says it rejected more than 1,300 newborn screening specimens as unsatisfactory last year because of incomplete saturation, meaning the blood was not allowed to fully soak through the collection device

"This unsatisfactory reason is often reported in conjunction with a 'Caked or Clotted' designation," a DSHS advisory says. "This happens when additional blood is applied to partially dried, but incomplete spots. This is the largest reason that specimens must be rejected, accounting for more than 30 percent of all rejected specimens. All of these specimens required a redraw and resulted in critical delays to testing of newborns that may have a disorder."

DSHS posted examples of specimens with these problems on its website.

The department offers suggestions and a free tutorial on how to reduce the number of unsatisfactory specimens and ensure prompt testing for all babies: 

  • Blot the blood directly from the heel onto one side of the paper while watching the opposite side to ensure that the circle is completely filled.
  • Use the proper size (<2.0mm length) lancet (e.g., Quick Heel or Tenderfoot). A finger lancet is not recommended.
  • Complete one circle at a time. Three good quality circles are better than five poor quality circles.
  • Avoid going back and reapplying additional blood to an incompletely filled circle. This may result in caking or clotting.   
 If you have any issues with the absorbency of the collection kit or any general questions about specimen collection, call the DSHS laboratory at (888) 963-7111, ext. 7333.  

FDA, CDC Report Fluzone-Related Seizures

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they are seeing increased reports of  febrile seizures following vaccination with Fluzone (the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine TIV manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, Inc.) to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. The seizures primarily have been in children younger than 2 years, the agencies said. 

Fluzone is the only influenza vaccine recommended for use for the 2010-11 flu season in infants and children aged 6-23 months.

The agencies say recommendations for the use of flu vaccine in children have not changed.   








Medicaid Changes VDP Preauthorization

Prior authorization services for the Texas Medicaid/CHIP Vendor Drug Program (VDP)  transferred from ACS/Heritage to Health Information Designs, Inc. on Jan. 31. VDP currently requires prior authorization for drugs not on the Preferred Drug List and for drugs that do not meet clinical guidelines as part of a clinical edit. 

For more information, call the VDP Prior Authorization Call Center at (877) 728-3927.     









TexMed 2011 Set May 13-14 in Houston

"Caring for Patients in a Time of Change" is the theme of TexMed 2011, May 13-14, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The conference offers more than 100 hours of clinical and business continuing medical education (CME), an exhibit hall with some 100 exhibits, and a chance to learn how to enhance patient care, stay abreast of clinical updates, discuss key issues with experts in the field, and help set TMA policy on issues that are important to you and your patients. Attendance at TexMed is free for TMA members. 

TexMed 2011 Highlights

Friday, May 13  






 7 am-4:30 pm
Expo Hall

7:30 am-3:30 pm
CME programming

8 am
Opening Session of the TMA House of Delegates

11:30 am-1:30 pm
Networking lunch
ponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas

4-5 pm
General Session: The Future of Medicine Under the New Health System With Jeff Goldsmith
Sponsored by the Texas Medical Liability Trust

5-6 pm
TMLT Welcome Reception
Sponsored by the Texas Medical Liability Trust

6-7 pm
TMA/TMA Alliance 2010-11 Presidents' Installation Reception
Sponsored by the Texas Medical Association Insurance Trust

7-11 pm
TMA Foundation's 18th Annual Benefit: Picture of Good Health

Saturday, May 14

7 am-12:30 pm 
Expo Hall

8:30 am-Noon
House of Delegates Business Meeting

9 am-5 pm
CME programming


Make your housing reservations at the Hyatt Regency Houston, 1200 Louisiana St., by April 18 to receive the special TMA rate of $149 single/double. All rooms are subject to a 15-percent state and room tax. Call the Hyatt Regency Houston at (713) 654 1234.

Thanks to our silver sponsor, the Hyatt Regency Houston, a portion of your room rate will be used to offset TexMed costs, ensuring TexMed remains a free member benefit.

You may register for the conference and make your housing reservations online on the TexMed 2011 webpage or contact the TMA Knowledge Center by telephone at (800) 880-7955 or by e-mail  


What's Up With TMB?

You can keep up with Texas Medical Board (TMB) activities by reading its quarterly  TMB Bulletin

The latest issue includes information about the electronic death registration law, frequently asked questions on new telemedicine rules, and details on TMB's crackdown on illegal pain treatment clinics. 


Lunar Bone Densitometer For Sale

This machine addresses bone mineral density health issues and is an excellent asset to any practice. The machine is in mint condition and has recently had preventative maintenance performed. Printer, computer, and calibration equipment come with the machine.

Check out this product (and others) in the TMA Online Classifieds. You can also post your own medical job opportunities, products and services, continuing medical education offerings, and more­ – for as little as $25.

Questions? E-mail TMA Advertising, or call (800) 880-1300, ext. 1423, or (512) 370-1423.  



Medicaid EHR Incentive Payments in May

Two states, Kentucky and Oklahoma, have already made the first incentive payments to physicians and hospitals enrolled in their Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) incentive programs. Texas Medicaid officials indicate payments for Texas physicians will start around May.

"The quick release of EHR incentive dollars should be a clear message to all physicians that these programs are not just bureaucratic talk from Washington. There is real money flowing to physicians," said Michael Stearns, MD, president and chief executive officer of e-MDs.

Physicians can receive up to $63,750 over six years for achieving "meaningful use" of a certified EHR if they have at least a 30-percent Medicaid patient volume. Pediatricians can qualify for up to $42,000 with a 20-percent Medicaid volume. The program is state regulated, and Texas physicians who register and adopt, implement, or upgrade a certified EHR in year one of the incentive program are eligible to receive the first-year EHR incentive. 

Medicaid incentives require physicians to meet "meaningful use" for 90 days in the second year of the program; it is not required in year one. Years three through six require achieving "meaningful use" for the full calendar year. Physicians may participate in only one EHR incentive program – Medicare or Medicaid – although they may switch programs once before 2015. Those receiving federal Medicaid EHR incentives may still apply for e-prescribing and Physician Quality Reporting Initiative incentives, if eligible. Early adopters of EHRs are eligible for incentives; it does not matter when an EHR system was purchased as long as it is certified for "meaningful use." The Certified HIT Product List provides a complete listing of tested and certified EHRs.

Visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website to register for the EHR incentive program. In addition to the CMS registration, there are Texas Medicaid enrollment requirements. Enrollment for the incentive program through Texas Medicaid will open Feb. 14. Texas Medicaid will host webinar demonstrations of the enrollment process on Thursday, Feb. 3, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm and from 5 to 6:30 pm (CST). Register online to participate in the webinar. 

Regional extension centers (RECs) have been established to help physicians work through some of the details of EHR selection, adoption, and achievement of meaningful use. Primary care physicians are eligible for onsite consulting services at a subsidized rate of only $300 per year.

For more information on RECs and stimulus incentives, visit the TMA website; contact the TMA Health Information Technology helpline at (800) 880-5720; or e-mail


This Month in Texas Medicine

The February issue of Texas Medicine tells you what you need to know about health information exchanges and why they're important, explains why Medicare still needs fixing, and warns you about what can happen if you sign a noncompete clause. You'll also learn about a new workers' compensation prescription preauthorization program and how screening of newborn babies' hearing can head off problems for them later in life.  


Texas Medicine RSS Feed

Don't want to wait for Texas Medicine to land in your mailbox? You can access it as an RSS feed, the same way you get the TMA Practice E-Tips RSS feed.  


E-Tips RSS Feed

TMA Practice E-Tips, a valuable source of hands-on, use-it-now advice on coding, billing, payment, HIPAA compliance, office policies and procedures, and practice marketing, is available as an RSS feed on the TMA website. Once there, you can download an RSS reader, such as Feedreader, Sharpreader, Sage, or NetNewsWire Lite. You also can subscribe to the RSS feeds for TMA news releases and for Blogged Arteries, the feed for Action


Do You Twitter? Follow TMA

As part of its work to explore new communications technologies, TMA regularly publishes on Twitter, the hot, 140-character "micro-blogging" service.

If you Twitter, follow TMA to get practice management tips, news bits, and political chatter – and we'll follow you, too. If you don't know what we're talking about, click here to check it out. 


What Can Practice Production Numbers Tell You?

Consider these factors if your production isn't consistent.

A practice management tip from
TMA Practice Consulting



This Just In ...

Want the latest and hottest news from TMA in a hurry? Then log on to Blogged Arteries. You can hear the latest Podcast TMA episodes and read the most recent news from Action and Texas Medicine


TMA Seminars

Practice Management, Ext. 1421

Recorded Web Seminars

Avoiding RAC Audits
Communication Skills: Why Bother?
Evaluating Your Medicare Options
Meaningful Use
Medical Records-Consent for Treatment of Minors
Patient-Physician Relationship
Patient Satisfaction
Professional Courtesy: Waiving Copays, and Charity Care Requirements
 Revenue Cycle Management  

Physician Health and Rehabilitation, Ext. 1342

PHR Training Session
2/18      Frisco  

PHR Retreat: Disruptive Behavior, Dual Diagnosis, and Relapse Prevention
2-18-19 Frisco  

Family Systems: The Impact of Marriage and Family on Physicians
4/2       Tyler
4/16      Galveston
9/10      Amarillo
10/20    El Paso

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