Health Care in President's Gun Control Bull's-Eye
While his proposal for a new law to ban the sale of assault weapons grabbed the early headlines, a number of pieces of President Obama's plan to reduce gun violence involve physicians and the health care system.
Already drawing controversy, for example, is the president's announcement that he will "clarify that the Affordable Care Act [ACA] does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes."
In an article entitled "Obama: Doctors Should Ask About Guns in Homes," the conservative NewsMax publication says that provision "sounds like George Orwell's 1984." From the other side, The Atlantic reported that "the order actually just preserves a legal expectation for doctors to report on their patients that has existed for 37 years."
All in all, a review of the president's 23 executive actions and nine legislative proposals reveals much that will – or could – impact physicians and patients and the health care system. (See below for the official White House press briefing on the pieces of the plan.)
One piece is already a formal executive order signed by the president: "The Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary), through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other scientific agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, shall conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it. The Secretary shall begin by identifying the most pressing research questions with the greatest potential public health impact, and by assessing existing public health interventions being implemented across the Nation to prevent gun violence."
"And while year after year, those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence," the president said at his news conference, "I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it – and Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds. We don't benefit from ignorance. We don't benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence."
The other six executive actions related to health care are:
- Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to HIPAA, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
- Release a letter to health care professionals clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
- Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
- Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within the ACA exchanges.
- Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
- Launch a national dialogue on mental health led by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
And the two pertinent pieces of President Obama's legislative agenda on gun violence are:
- Help ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need.
- Ensure health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.
The first item, according to the White House press briefing, is aimed at training teachers, school counselors, social workers, and others who routinely work with students and young adults.
TMLT Covers Employment Disputes
The Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT) began offering free added employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) to all TMLT policyholders on Feb. 1.
EPLI covers lawsuits caused by several employment-related events, including harassment, discrimination, Family and Medical Leave Act violations, hostile work environment, and wrongful termination. Limits of liability are $50,000 per claim (including both defense costs and indemnity payments) with a $5,000 deductible. The yearly aggregate limit is also $50,000. Higher limits are available for purchase.
"Today, employment practices-related claims are a credible threat to physicians' practices. EPLI coverage is crucial to insure against that threat,” said TMLT President and Chief Executive Officer Charles R. Ott Jr. "No other Texas-based medical professional liability carrier offers this benefit to all policyholders at no extra premium."
If you are interested in becoming a TMLT policyholder, apply on the TMLT website or call the sales department at (800) 580-8658, ext. 8603. If TMLT already covers you and you have questions, call (800)-580-8658 and ask for your underwriter.
The largest medical liability insurance provider in Texas, TMLT serves more than 16,000 TMA member physicians. Rated "A (Excellent)" by A.M. Best Company, TMLT was created and is endorsed by TMA.
Your Chance to Protect Little Heads
Three great times to host a TMA Hard Hats for Little Heads helmet giveaway are approaching. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, April is Texas Child Safety Month, and May is Bike Month.
TMA encourages physicians, county medical societies, medical students, and TMA Alliance members to give free helmets to children in your community. TMA provides free helmets with your purchase of helmets. Buy 50 helmets at our reduced cost of $7.35 each, and we'll give you 50 helmets free.
Check out these ideas for events, and start planning your event now. To learn more, contact Tammy Wishard, TMA outreach coordinator, at (800) 880-1300, ext. 1470, or (512) 370-1470.
Hard Hats for Little Heads is made possible through a grant from TMA Foundation thanks to top donors – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, Prudential, and two anonymous foundations – and gifts from physicians and their families.