Hot Topics

Help Your Patients Prevent Zika Virus Transmission
To help prevent the spread of Zika virus in Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has developed flyers and door hangers (available in English and Spanish) you can use in your office to educate your patients on protecting themselves from the disease. DSHS is testing for Zika virus at its public health lab in Austin. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages Texas physicians to report suspected Zika virus cases to DSHS.

Delegates Vote to Preserve Billing Rights, Fight MOC Coercion
The Texas Medical Association "has the green light to fight for state legislation that will address two crucial issues for Texas physicians," thanks to the TMA House of Delegates, Council on Legislation Chair Ray Callas, MD, wrote in a letter to all TMA member physicians.

MACRA: Weigh In on New Patient Relationship Categories
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, you will have to report new patient relationship categories and codes on all Medicare claims. Before the codes can be developed, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wants your input on a series of questions pertaining to the new categories. Review the draft categories, and weigh in by sending your comments to TMA by Aug. 1, 2016.

TMA Opposes Dental Board's Sleep Apnea Treatment Rules
TMA is fighting the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners' (TSBDE's) proposed rule changes for dental treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. The association told TSBDE in a letter TMA "strongly opposes any attempt to expand the dentists' scope of practice through the promulgation of rules that TMA contends not only lack support in, but also conflict with, the applicable law passed by the Texas Legislature. Unfortunately, this opposition extends to the rules adopted to be effective on June 11, 2014, and the new March 18, 2016, rule proposal."

TMA to House: Reduce Costs, Cut Red Tape, Boost Medicaid Pay
TMA joined with seven state specialty societies in a letter urging Texas House budget writers to take strong action to improve Medicaid. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services held two days of hearings in April examining the Medicaid program.

PQRS: Start GPRO Registration Process Now
It's more alphabet soup from the feds. You have until June 30, 2016, to register with the Physician Value-Physician Quality Reporting System (PV-PQRS). Group practices with two or more eligible professionals interested in participating in the 2016 PQRS program year under the group practice reporting option should register now.

Tips for Acing a Meaningful Use Audit
A meaningful use audit that ends badly for you could mean you have to forfeit your meaningful use incentive dollars from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Don’t let this happen to you.

Physicians Foundation Survey Gauges Your Satisfaction
How satisfied you are with the current state of medicine? The Physicians Foundation is surveying you and your 650,000 physician colleagues across the country to determine just that. The survey asks for your thoughts on health reform, electronic health records, new physician payment methods, ICD-10, and a variety of other topics. Take a few minutes to complete the survey.

Use These Medicaid Tools to Help Get Paid More Efficiently
Medicaid's new e-signature capability and its portal for verifying patients' Medicaid eligibility and accessing their available health information are two ways to help cut down on the busywork in your office.

When Disaster Strikes, Ask for a Claims Filing Extension
You know Texas weather. In 2015, floods, blizzards, tornadoes, and windstorms plagued the state. Some physician practices experienced severe damage, and they had to scramble to get back on their feet. Under Texas prompt payment laws, you may be able get an extension of the 95-day claims filing deadline if you believe you will not be able to meet it for some claims because of a catastrophic event, like a tornado.

Register for the Texas Primary Care and Health Home Summit
Be part of the fourth annual Texas Primary Care and Health Home Summit June 9–10 at the JW Marriott in Houston. The event, presented by the Texas Medical Home Initiative and Texas Health Institute and cosponsored by TMA, provides a learning laboratory for primary care transformation in Texas.

Learn About HIV Screening at Test Texas Coalition Summit
Do you want to learn more about routine HIV screening in health care settings? You'll have the chance at the 2016 Test Texas Coalition Summit on May 13 in Austin at the Doubletree by Hilton. Register today for the summit, hosted by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Edinburg Physician Elected TMA President-Elect
The Texas Medical Association (TMA) today voted Edinburg gastroenterologist Carlos J. Cardenas, MD, president-elect. He will serve in the office for one year before he assumes the TMA presidency. TMA’s policymaking body, the House of Delegates, elected Dr. Cardenas today during TexMed, its annual conference, in Dallas. 

Austin Physician Wins TMA’s Highest Honor
As he steps up to receive the highest honor bestowed by America’s largest state medical society, anesthesiologist Joseph P. Annis, MD, of Austin, says his accomplishments in medicine can be traced back to the loving support and encouragement of his closest family and friends. He says their influence gave him the maturity and wisdom to travel the pathway to success.   

Dallas Physician Becomes TMA President
The Texas Medical Association (TMA) today installed Dallas surgeon Don R. Read, MD, as its 151st president. He took office in a ceremony before TMA’s House of Delegates policymaking body at TexMed, TMA’s annual conference, in Dallas. He will lead America’s largest state medical society for one year.

TMA Minority Scholarship Program Application Is Available
TMA will be able to award 11 students with $10,000 scholarships through the TMA Minority Scholarship Program for 2016 incoming medical students. The program helps minorities who are underrepresented in Texas medical schools and the state's physician workforce. TMA increased the award amount from $5,000 to $10,000 for scholarship winners beginning this year. To be considered for a scholarship, TMA must receive applications by 5 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

Know a Deserving Minority Medical Student Applicant?
The TMA Minority Scholarship Program has provided scholarships to underrepresented minority medical students since 1998. This scholarship supports TMA's vision, "to improve the health of all Texans," and its long-standing priority of addressing health disparities.

Earn CME at TMA's Physician Health and Wellness Conference
Integrative Medicine and Physician Health is the theme of TMA's Physician Health and Wellness Training Session and 23rd Annual Retreat, which will take place Feb. 26–27 at Lakeway Resort and Spa in Austin. Presented by the TMA Committee on Physician Health and Wellness (PHW), the conference is accredited for a maximum of 11.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits ™, 8.25 designated as ethics and/or professional responsibility education.

Physicians Benevolent Fund Helps Physicians, Families
When Texas physicians and their families have needed support because of poverty, infirmity, disability, accident, or other adversity, the TMA Physicians Benevolent Fund has stepped in to help for the past 53 years.

TMB Resource Helps Clarify New Telemedicine Rules
The Texas Medical Board (TMB) adopted rules April 10 concerning telemedicine and requirements for prescribing drugs and controlled substances. But since then, there has been some confusion regarding the impact of the new rules.

Teladoc's Antitrust Suit Against TMB Moves Forward
Teladoc's lawsuit against the Texas Medical Board (TMB) is heating up. On Dec. 14, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Pitman refused to dismiss telemedicine provider Teladoc Inc.'s antitrust challenge of TMB's rule requiring, in most circumstances, a defined physician-patient relationship (including a physical examination either in person or face-to-face via telemedicine with a presenter) before  prescribing a dangerous drug or a controlled substance.

Supreme Court Ruling Maintains Six-Year Limit on Damage Claims
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has physicians who care for patients enrolled in federal health care programs breathing easier. The ruling in KBR v. United States of America Ex Relator Benjamin Carter prevents doctors from facing civil lawsuits for an unlimited period of time and maintains the six-year limitation on damage claims under the False Claims Act.

Federal Judge Sides with Teladoc, Blocks TMB Telemedicine Rule
Last month, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted Teladoc's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that blocks the Texas Medical Board's (TMB's) recently adopted telemedicine rule, which prohibits prescription of dangerous drugs or controlled substances without a "defined physician-patient relationship." That includes a physical examination via face-to-face visit or in-person evaluation, as TMB defines those terms in the rules. TMB adopted the rule on April 10, it and was set to take effect June 3.

Another Post-Tort Reform Record for New Texas Physicians
As it has for four of the past seven years, the Texas Medical Board licensed a record number of new physicians for the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, surging past the 4,000 mark for the first time in history.

EPCS Permitted in Texas
The start of the New Year is a good time to remind you of a Texas law that permits physicians to electronically prescribe controlled substances. If you regularly write prescriptions for controlled substances, you may find value in upgrading your technology to comply with the federal and state regulations.

Be a Preceptor; Help Shape the Next Generation of Medicine
The Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians is seeking physician mentors for the summer 2016 General Internal Medicine Statewide Preceptorship Program.

Changes to New State Notifiable Conditions List
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has released the 2016 Texas Notifiable Conditions list, which features some changes, including expanded descriptions of tuberculosis (TB) and TB infection to clarify reporting expectations.

Supreme Court Backs TMA in Tobacco Tax Case
The Texas Supreme Court unanimously rejected a challenge to a tax lawmakers enacted in 2013 to recover health care costs from the tobacco companies that were not part of the $10 billion-a-year 1998 lawsuit settlement between the state and the nation's five largest tobacco manufacturers. The settlement funds and the tax both were intended to recover the health care costs associated with smoking. TMA had urged the high court to take the case.

TAPA Creates Sample Release Forms for New Mexico Patients
The New Mexico Legislature recently passed House Bill 270, which allows Texas physicians to obtain a signed agreement from New Mexico patients stating should they wish to file a lawsuit they will do so in Texas court. To assist physicians in taking advantage of the law's protections, the Texas Alliance for Patient Access has developed two forms, one for emergency treatment and one for voluntary treatment.

New Mexico Law Protects Patients' Access to Care in Texas
Texas doctors will continue to receive a full range of liability protections even when treating New Mexico patients. That issue was in doubt until the New Mexico Legislature took decisive action Feb. 17.

Protect Your Practice From Cyber Attacks
Last month, TMA learned a South Texas member physician was the victim of a cyber attack in which a thief hacked into the physician's computer and demanded money in exchange for the key to access the encrypted information. Since then, TMA has been working to publicize steps you should take to safeguard your system from cyber attacks.

DocbookMD: New Owners, Same Great Member Benefit
On March 1, 2016, Scrypt, Inc., developers of secure and compliant productivity tools for regulated industries, announced that it had completed the acquisition of DocbookMD, adding the HIPAA-secure messaging platform to its suite of document management products.

State Pharmacy Board Proposes Changes to Compounding Rules
The Texas State Board of Pharmacy (TSBP) has proposed changes to its rules for sterile compounding in part to stay consistent with proposed new United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) standards, which have caused controversy in the allergist-immunologist community.

Open Payments Review and Dispute Period Ends May 15
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the beginning of the 45-day Open Payments review and dispute period. After the conclusion of the review and dispute period on May 15, 2016, CMS will publish the 2015 payment data and updates to 2013 and 2014 data on June 30, 2016.

DSHS: Expect Delay in Newborn Screening CF Tests
As of April 1, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) laboratory has temporarily ceased reporting abnormal results of the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Mutation Panel based on in-house testing. DSHS informed TMA and those who conduct newborn screening that the Texas newborn screening (NBS) laboratory received notification that some reagents used to identify mutations as part of the CF newborn screen have been recalled by the manufacturer due to potential false-positive results.

TMF Launches Physician Practice Quality Improvement Award
Physician practices continue to make great strides in providing reliable preventive services by using health information technology and effective care management methods. We think these practices should be recognized for their hard work. TMA, the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association (TOMA), and TMF Health Quality Institute have partnered again to offer the Physician Practice Quality Improvement Award program.

2,350 Texas Kids to Get Bike Helmets From TMA This Month
April is Child Safety Month, and TMA's Hard Hats for Little Heads program is out to make the world safer for thousands of Texas children. TMA physicians and other volunteers are giving away 2,350 free bicycle helmets to Texas kids at 18 community events across the state in April. They also are teaching parents and children the importance of properly fitting the helmet for maximum protection.

Medicaid Restores Payment Levels for Child Vision Services
Medicaid is restoring physician payments for 50 pediatric eye codes to higher levels paid prior to July 1, 2015. The increase, which takes effect April 1, averages 6.6 percent across all codes.

TMA Warns Physicians: Be Prepared for Cyber Attacks
TMA has been alerted that a South Texas physician member is the victim of a cyber attack in which a thief hacked into the physician's computer and is demanding money in exchange for the key to access the encrypted information.

CDC: Health Facilities No Longer Need to Screen for Ebola
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released updated guidance — in the form of frequently asked questions — on Ebola screening in health care facilities. CDC says U.S. health facilities "no longer need to screen patients specifically for Ebola virus disease" but should regularly review CDC travel notices, obtain a complete travel history before the patient exam, and "adjust screening practices for acutely ill patients."

Feds Launch Phase 2 of HIPAA Compliance Audits

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has launched Phase 2 of its HIPAA audit program. FCi Federal will conduct the audits for OCR. The new round of audits will assess physicians' compliance with HIPAA's patient privacy provisions.

Coming Soon: Credentialing Help From TMA
Concerns among physician members about the burden of credentialing and enrollment with hospitals and health plans have prompted TMA to take action. TMA is evaluating credentialing verification organizations that will assist physicians with the credentialing, verification, and enrollment process. TMA wants to affiliate with a company that streamlines the flow of information to all plans operating in Texas, including Medicaid HMOs and hospitals. Stay tuned for the launch of this service, which aligns with TMA's work on network adequacy and the need for health plans to maintain accurate provider directories.

New TMA White Paper Paints Path to Patient Engagement
Technology is giving patients many new ways to create, access, and control their health information. A new TMA white paper, "Electronic Patient Engagement Tools: A Guide for Physicians," shows physicians how to make the most of the changes. Patient engagement is closely aligned with, but not identical to, patient-centered care, the white paper explains.

Get a Free Quick Consult at TexMed 2016
TMA staff experts will be on hand at TexMed 2016 to provide free, one-on-one problem-solving covering a variety of topics.

TMA Member Services Help You Get Paid
TMA offers a number of members-only services designed to help you get paid. One of these services, TMA's Hassle Factor Log, helped members recover more than $1.3 million in 2015.

TMA's PQRS Endorsements Discontinued
In 2011, TMA endorsed two online registries for Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) submissions: PQRSwizard and DocSite (now Covisint PQRS). Both are qualified PQRS registries and are the top two most used electronic health record-agnostic registries operating in the market. TMA members received a significant discount on reporting done through one of these registries as a benefit of membership.

New Mexico Court Urged to Heed Texas Tort Reforms
A medical liability case involving a Texas physician who provided care to a New Mexico resident in Texas should not be governed by New Mexico's far weaker tort laws, TMA, the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, the New Mexico Medical Society, and dozens of other physician groups in both states wrote in a brief to the New Mexico Supreme Court. Access to health care is already challenging enough for New Mexico patients seeking care. New Mexico doctors and hospitals have long relied on referring or transferring sick and injured patients to Texas for specialized care.

Act Now to Avoid Losing Your Medicaid Enrollment Status
Thanks to lobbying from TMA and organized medicine, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services extended the deadline for physicians and other health professionals, including advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, to reenroll in Medicaid to Sept. 25, 2016. The initial deadline for reenrollment, driven by a provision in the Affordable Care Act, was March 24.

Fight the Flu With Tools From TMA
Flu season is just around the corner, and TMA's Be Wise — Immunize has tools you can use to protect yourself, your staff, and your patients.

CDC Issues Zika Virus Health Advisory
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Zika virus health advisory with information and recommendations for recognizing, managing, and reporting infections in travelers returning from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. The advisory also provides travel guidance for pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant. Last month, public health officials announced the confirmed diagnosis of the mosquito-borne disease in a Houston woman who traveled in November to El Salvador.

DSHS Lab Now Testing for Zika Virus
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reports the state has had 18 confirmed cases of Zika virus. One case involves a Dallas County resident who had sexual contact with someone who acquired the infection while traveling abroad. The other 17 cases were in travelers infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home. DSHS is now testing for Zika virus at its public health lab in Austin. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages Texas physicians to report suspected Zika virus cases to DSHS.

First Locally Acquired Zika Case in Texas Amid CDC Advisory
The Zika virus is hitting close to home. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported the first case of Zika virus disease contracted in Texas. It involves a Dallas County resident who had sexual contact with someone who acquired the infection while traveling abroad. The agency says the possibility of sexual transmission from an infected person to a noninfected person is likely in this case.

TEXPAC Wins Big in Primary Elections
Despite a few late-night nail-biters, the results of the March 1 party primary were extremely favorable for medicine, for patients, and for TEXPAC. TMA is happy with the results of the races for the Texas House and Senate and U.S. Congress. The candidates who support patients and physicians, by and large, did well — some surprisingly well.

TMA's Plan Preserves Physicians' Billing Rights
The TMA Board of Trustees has approved and sent to the TMA House of Delegates a plan to preserve physicians' right to bill for their services. Quite a few other states, some members of Congress, and the Obama administration have enacted or proposed legislation that would severely limit or prohibit physicians from billing patients for services provided out of network. The board-appointed Task Force on Balance Billing, which included hospital-based physicians and representatives of several other specialties, devised the plan.

Workers' Compensation Annual Audit Plan Now Available
Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) Commissioner Ryan Brannan approved the 2016 Medical Quality Review Annual Audit Plan, which sets the priorities for the types of audits the Medical Quality Review Panel will focus on during the next year. The review categories pertain to "appropriateness of a doctor's decision and recordkeeping for prescribing compound drugs/medications."

Recognize a Local Journalist's Health Reporting
Zika virus, HPV vaccine success in reducing infections, addiction and mental health, the health care marketplace — these topics are making headlines in 2016. When you read, watch, or hear a great Texas-based health news story, nominate it for the TMA Anson Jones, MD, Awards, which recognize excellence in health journalism in the Lone Star State. TMA has honored award-winning Texas journalists for more than 55 years.

Register for DSHS Local Health Authority Workshop
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is hosting the Local Health Authority (LHA) workshop in conjunction with the Texas Public Health Association's Annual Education Conference April 11–13, 2016, in Galveston. The workshop targets LHA physicians, as well as local health administrators and directors, DSHS regional medical directors and deputy regional directors.

CMS Releases Results of the 2016 Value Modifier
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released results from the implementation of the 2016 Value-based Payment Modifier (value modifier) and the adjustment factor that will be applied to physician groups with 10 or more eligible professionals (EPs), based on 2014 quality and cost performance.

Join Your Colleagues in Dallas for TexMed 2016
TexMed 2016, TMA's annual meeting, is just around the corner. Join us from April 29–30 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, where we will explore Bridging the Gaps in Health Care. Make your hotel reservations by April 6, 2015, and be sure to mention the TexMed conference.

TMA Tells Feds How to Develop Quality Measures
In a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), TMA specified a list of principles and guidelines CMS should use in developing quality measures for physicians.

Texas Medicaid Improves Access to LARCs
Texas Medicaid now allows women to obtain intrauterine devices or implantable contraceptives, collectively known as long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), immediately postpartum. For the past two years, TMA and other physician specialty societies have advocated strongly for the change as a means to increase women's access to the most effective forms of contraceptives.

HHSC Needs Feedback on New Medicaid Enrollment System
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will implement a new online Provider Management and Enrollment System (PMES), and the agency needs feedback from Medicaid physicians on how well the system works and how to make it better. To provide input, take HHSC's online survey.

Apply Today for 2016 TXACP Preceptorship Program
The Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians (TXACP) is accepting applications from Texas medical students and physicians for the summer 2016 General Internal Medicine Statewide Preceptorship Program.

Get Free Cancer Education From TMA
The TMA Education Center is offering three free cancer-specific continuing medical education courses.

TMA Workshop Focuses on E&M Coding Made Easy
Evaluation and management (E&M) services are the target of many audits by government and commercial payers. While other services may have higher claim dollar amounts, E&M services are the overwhelming leader by volume of services billed and a huge target for audits. To keep audits at bay, TMA is offering professional coders a full-day coding workshop for office staff — E&M Coding Made Easy, April 19 in Austin from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm CST— presented by auditing expert Shannon Deconda. TMA also will offer a webcast specifically for physicians — E&M Services from the Physician’s Perspective — from 6 to 8 pm CST April 19.

Patient Access to Their Health Info: HIPAA, Meaningful Use
HIPAA and the meaningful use program both encourage patient engagement by giving patients access to their health information, but through different channels and under different rules. But there can be overlap between sets of requirements.

Attest to Meaningful Use by March 11
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services updated the meaningful use attestation portal to align with the modified Stage 2 measures released on Oct. 16, 2015. The portal is open for 2015 program year attestations from Jan. 4 to Mar. 11, 2016.

New TMA Resource: Electronic Patient Engagement Tools
With high-deductible health plans and a greater push for personal responsibility, many patients are interested in engaging more closely with their physicians and other health care professionals. Meaningful use requirements and other value-based programs have physicians using electronic communication tools to share information with their patients.

TMA: Marriage, Family Therapists Can't Diagnose
On Dec. 31, 2015, TMA filed a response brief with the Supreme Court of Texas in regard to Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists and Texas Association of Marriage and Family Therapy vs. Texas Medical Association. The brief argues that the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists' rule authorizing marriage and family therapists to diagnose any and all known mental disorders is not within the scope of practice set forth in state law. In the brief, TMA argues the plain meaning of the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Act doesn't include diagnosis.

Apply for Meaningful Use Hardship Exception by July 1
It's no secret TMA has been less than thrilled with the meaningful use electronic health record incentive program. For starters, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did not publish the modification rule for Stage 2 meaningful use until Oct. 16, 2015. As a result, eligible professionals weren't informed of the revised program requirements until fewer than the 90 required days to attest remained in the calendar year. That left them at risk for a penalty. CMS vowed to grant hardship exemptions for 2015 for those eligible physicians who were unable to attest due to the lateness of the rule. In December, Congress adopted S 2425, known as the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, which allows one exception form for individual physicians and groups so they can list all physicians and other health professionals who are claiming the same exemption category.

TMA Asks TMB to Withdraw Proposed Call Coverage Rules
TMA weighed in strongly against proposed new Texas Medical Board rules that one Dallas physician called "totally bizarre and dangerous." The new rules state that physicians who enter into call coverage agreements "are contractually obligated and mutually responsible for meeting the standard of care" for established patients and for sharing documentation of any call coverage provided.

Physicians: CMS Must Improve PQRS Feedback, Review Processes

Problems with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) feedback and informal review processes in the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) continue to plague physicians. The American Medical Association, the Medical Group Management Association, and 43 national specialty societies told CMS Acting Administrator Andrew Slavitt in a letter "the agency is merely adding red tape to an already administratively onerous program," rather than driving quality improvement.

TMA Live Webcast Explores Hot Button Legal Issues
Physician groups are growing rapidly. Along with such growth comes an entirely new set of issues, some of which have legal and financial risks to a practice. You can learn more during a live webcast I'll be presenting for TMA, Hot Button Legal Issues in a Physician Practice, March 10 at 6:30 pm CST. Register now.

TMA Foundation Grants Record Amount to TMA Programs
TMA's health improvement, quality, and science initiatives will reach more Texans in 2016 thanks to a record high of more than $540,000 in grants awarded by the TMA Foundation. The increase reflects newly funded programs, such as the University of Health and expansions in previously funded initiatives such as Be Wise—Immunize and the Award for Excellence in Academic Medicine.

Special Offer for TMA Members From TransFirst
TransFirst, a TMA-endorsed payment processing vendor, is offering special flat-fee pricing and a free EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) credit card processing terminal for TMA members.

CMS Clarifies Meaningful Use Hardship Exemptions
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) says physicians applying for the meaningful use hardship exemption for payment year 2015 (which affects 2017 penalties) are not precluded from receiving the incentive if they successfully attest to meaningful use for the 2015 payment year.

PQRS: Report 2015 Data Now to Avoid 2017 Penalties
If you plan to participate in Medicare's Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and value-based payment modifier programs for the 2015 performance period, now is the time to submit your data on quality measures. Depending on the reporting mechanism used, deadlines vary from February through March 2016.

TexMed 2016 Coming to Dallas April 29–30; Register Now
Join us for TexMed 2016, TMA's annual meeting, April 29–30 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, where we will explore Bridging the Gaps in Health Care. TexMed is a free member benefit. Register today, and review the TexMed 2016 Advance Program.

TMA Foundation Gala Entertainment by Hunter Sullivan
TMA Foundation board member and major donor Lee Ann Pearse, MD, and Einar Vagnes, of Dallas, serve as host city chairs for an evening inspired by the 1944 Academy Award-winning film Casablanca on Friday, April 29, held in conjunction with TexMed 2016 at the Hilton Anatole. The gala features two guest receptions, a silent auction, an elegant dinner with a spirited game of Heads or Tails, and a chance to outbid your friends for a trip to Paris in the live auction.

CMS Relaxes Lookback Period for Medicare Overpayments
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has spoken, finalizing a controversial rule and relaxing the lookback period physicians must adhere to when returning Medicare overpayments. In 2012, CMS proposed requiring physicians to return Medicare overpayments going back 10 years. The agency announced last week the required lookback period will be six years.

Texas Primary Care and Health Home Summit Is June 9-10
The fourth annual Texas Primary Care and Health Home Summit will take place June 9-10 at the JW Marriott Houston Galleria.

Cancer Centers Endorse HPV Vaccine for Cancer Prevention
In response to low national human papillomovirus (HPV) vaccination rates, MD Anderson Cancer Center has joined with 68 other National Cancer Institute cancer centers across the country to call for increased HPV vaccination for cancer prevention. The joint statement urges parents, young adults, and health care professionals to act to increase vaccination rates.

TMA Tells the Feds to Reduce CQM Reporting Burden
In a letter to acting Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Andy Slavitt, TMA outlines several steps CMS can take to improve the reporting of clinical quality measures.

CDC Issues Severe Influenza Illness Health Advisory
Influenza is spreading across the nation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) severe influenza illness health advisory has an urgent message for physicians.

Help Shape Medicare's Quality Measure Development Plan
TMA wants to hear from physician members about the draft Quality Measure Development Plan recently posted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Review the plan and submit your comments to Angelica Ybarra, TMA director of clinical advocacy, by Tuesday, Feb. 23.

CMS Extends Meaningful Use Deadline to March 11
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) extended the attestation deadline for the 2015 electronic health record meaningful use program to 10:59 pm CT, Friday, March 11.  The original deadline was Monday, Feb. 29.

TEXPAC Releases 2016 Primary Endorsements
TEXPAC has announced the nine judicial and 134 legislative candidates TMA has endorsed in the March 1 party primaries. "These men and women are the best on the ballot for our profession, for our practices, and — especially — for our patients," said TEXPAC Board Chair Brad Holland, MD. "They deserve the doctors' vote." The TEXPAC board also voted to endorse two more judicial candidates, six congressmen seeking reelection, and candidates in four state House races and two Senate contests.

Staff: Register Now for Free Admission to TexMed 2016 EXPO
Free advance registration is now open for practice managers and staff to attend the EXPO at TexMed 2016. On-site registration is available for $75.

Register for the Western Health Care Leadership Academy
Register now for the 2016 Western Health Care Leadership Academy May 13–15 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. TMA is a cosponsor of the event, which is ideal for physicians, nurses, medical practice managers, hospital chiefs of staff, and medical and specialty society officers and executives.

TMA Foundation Recognizes Major Donors
The TMA Foundation recognized 20 Major Donors for their generosity and vision for a healthier Texas at the TMA Winter Conference on Jan. 30 in Austin.

TMA PracticeEdge-Built ACOs Open for Business
Congratulations to East Texas Regional Accountable Care Collaborative (Nacogdoches), UPSA ACO (San Antonio), Alliance ACO (rural central Texas and Kerrville), and Houston Regional ACO, all of whom kicked off their new value-based contracts on Jan. 1. Combined, these physician-led accountable care organizations (ACOs) working with TMA PracticeEdge represent more than 250 physicians and approximately 40,000 patient lives. All of these groups are accepting new physician members, and the TMA PracticeEdge team is recruiting physicians who want to set up commercial ACOs for a July 1, 2016, start date or the 2017 Medicare Shared Savings Program.

Fund a Local Shot Clinic with Help from Be Wise — Immunize
TMA can help you with community outreach while boosting your local vaccination rates. TMA's Be Wise — Immunize is accepting applications until March 1 for grants to support local vaccination events. Grants of up to $2,500 are available to TMA member-physician practices/clinics, county medical societies, TMA Alliance chapters, and medical student chapters.

March, April, May: Key Months for Helmet Giveaways
Three great times to host a TMA Hard Hats for Little Heads bicycle helmet giveaway are fast approaching. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, April is Texas Child Safety Month, and May is Bike Month.

TMA Course Educates Doctors on Diabetes Prevention
Help your diabetic patients improve diet and lead a healthy lifestyle. A shocking 29.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and an estimated one-in-four people do not know they have the disease. Prevention is key. Texas A&M University researchers and physicians developed a continuing medical education offering, available from TMA, which features the latest information on type 2 diabetes.

Medicaid Reenrollment Deadline Pushed to Sept. 25
Physicians have an extra six months to reenroll in Medicaid, thanks to lobbying from TMA and organized medicine. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has extended the deadline for most physicians to reenroll in Medicaid to Sept. 25. The initial deadline for reenrollment, driven by a provision in the Affordable Care Act, was March 24. Texas Medicaid officials say they "encourage all providers who have not yet submitted a reenrollment application to begin this process immediately to avoid potential payment disruptions." TMA also has been urging Texas physicians to get ahead of the complex process.

Apply Now for Internal Medicine Preceptorship Program
The Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians is now accepting applications from first- and second-year Texas medical students and from physicians for the summer 2016 General Internal Medicine Statewide Preceptorship Program.

TexMed General Session Stars Bestselling Author, Economist
TMA has secured two prestigious speakers to headline the TexMed 2016 General Session: Marty A. Makary, MD, and Mark G. Dotzour, PhD. This year's conference will take place April 29–30 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

Texas Physicians Lead TMAIT Board of Trustees
At its May meeting, the TMA Board of Trustees approved the nomination of Richard L. Noel, MD, of Houston, to serve on the TMA Insurance Trust (TMAIT) Board of Trustees until 2018. Roberto San Martin, MD, of San Antonio, will serve a final three-year term to end in 2018.

Tips From TMA to Help You Survive a Meaningful Use Audit
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services conducts prepayment and post-payment meaningful use audits. Some are random; some are based on complex algorithms. If you participate in meaningful use, document everything indicating that you have met all meaningful use criteria.

Take Part in New CMS Clinical Care, Social Services Model
The new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Accountable Health Communities model bridges clinical care and social services to help address Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries' health-related social needs. Physician practices are among the list of eligible applicants who can take part in this new CMS model.























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