TMA Five-Step Checklist for MACRA Readiness
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed a draft rule to implement the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) on Jan. 1, 2017. Although the final rule will not be published until or around Nov. 1, 2016, the Texas Medical Association recommends that you prepare your practice now.

MACRAeconomics 101 Coming to Your Home Phone
Have you heard all the hubbub about the proposed MACRA rule? Are you confused? Angry? Worried? Totally in the dark? TMA is working hard to change the rule the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has drafted to implement the Medicaid Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015.

Lawmakers Get Head Start on 2017 Health Care Issues
The 140 days the Texas Constitution allocates every other year for a state legislative session is never enough time for lawmakers to study and grasp all they need to do with the most complex issues. House and Senate committees use the time between sessions — the interim — to conduct research, hold hearings, and draft bills. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus have laid out their interim charges to the committees; health care issues will get a share of legislators' attention.

TMA Convenes Expert Panel to Tackle Zika
TMA is working to get ahead of this year's highest-profile potential public health threat with the formation of a workgroup to strategize prevention and response to Zika virus disease.

How Will Value-Based Modifier Affect Your 2017 Medicare Payments?
MACRA's not here yet, but VBPM still is. Are you ready? As TMA fights to improve the draft rule implementing the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), you need to remember that the old Medicare quality measurement laws are still in place for now.

Running Low? Order Schedule II Prescription Pads Now
Responsibility for the oversight and processing of orders for Schedule II prescription forms in Texas shifts from the Department of Public Safety to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy on Sept. 1, 2016.

Don’t Neglect These Tropical Diseases
The Texas Department of State Health Services invites you to a live webinar on "neglected tropical diseases" in Texas. The webinar will cover ascariasis, Chagas disease, cysticercosis, dengue, echinococcosis, fascioliasis, hookworm, leishmaniasis, paragonimiasis, taeniasis, and trichuriasis.

Warning: No Balance Billing for Dual Eligibles
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reissued guidance recently to remind physicians of the prohibition on balance billing for patients who are covered by both Medicare and Medicaid.

CMS Proposes a Break for Docs on Meaningful Use Reporting
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes easing some of the meaningful use requirements and adjusting the 2016 reporting period from one year to 90 days.

Governor Abbott Names TMA Board Member to Chair Texas Health Services Authority
Gov. Greg Abbott has reappointed Austin colon and rectal surgeon David Fleeger, MD, to the Texas Health Services Authority Board of Directors and named him as presiding officer of the board. Dr. Fleeger is a member of the TMA Board of Trustees and president of Central Texas Colon and Rectal Surgeons.

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.

Download Release Forms for New Mexico Patients to Sign
The passage of House Bill 270 by the New Mexico Legislature allows Texas physicians to obtain a signed agreement from New Mexico patients stating that 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 (TAPA) has developed two forms, one for emergency treatment and one for voluntary treatment. You can download the emergency treatment and voluntary treatment forms in English and Spanish from the TMA website.

Focus on Member Services: Work/Life Balance
You may know TMA fights for physicians professionally with outstanding advocacy at the state and federal levels. But with your help, TMA has also provided more than $3.8 million to physicians in need and established wellness courses, travel programs, and community health initiatives that can help physicians balance work and home life.

Texans Sweep to AMA Office
Texas physicians and medical students enjoyed outstanding success in leadership elections at the AMA House of Delegates.

Texas Physicians Ask VA Health Official Tough Questions
In a frank and occasionally testy exchange, members of the Texas Delegation to the AMA and a senior health care official at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) presented two very different pictures of VA's proposed scope-of-practice rule for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). "Veterans deserve the highest and best care," said Beaumont anesthesiologist Ray Callas, MD, a decorated U.S. Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm. "In the most complicated cases, anesthesiologists should be in the lead."

Check Your Meaningful Use Data
Half-way through 2016 is a perfect time to check your meaningful use numbers to make sure you're meeting all of the required measures. Take this opportunity to make any necessary workflow adjustments, or ask for help to ensure you meet the required measure percentages for the numerators and denominators.

Why Did I Get That Medical Bill?
A new epidemic has hit; call it "insurance illiteracy." Numerous studies (like this national research and this Texas study) show the public's growing lack of understanding of basic health insurance terms, such as "copay," "out-of-pocket expense," and "network." Reasons given for the problem include the addition of large numbers of people newly insured under the Affordable Care Act and the health insurance industry's growing array of confusing new products and cost-containment strategies.

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.

Standing Order Allows Pharmacists to Prescribe Naloxone
The Texas Pharmacy Association (TPA) implemented an expansive physician-authorized "standing order" regarding the dispensing of naloxone/narcan, a fast-acting antidote that can be administered to someone who is overdosing on opioids. Effective Aug. 1, the standing order will allow qualified Texas pharmacists to dispense naloxone to patients and/or family members or friends of patients who have a medical need.

New CDC Registry Tracks Zika Virus Pregnancy Data
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is getting a better indication of just how many pregnant women in the United States and its territories have Zika virus. CDC established the National Zika Pregnancy Registry and is collaborating with state and local health departments to collect information about pregnancy and infant outcomes in women with laboratory evidence of Zika. CDC says it will use the data to update recommendations for clinical care, to plan for services for pregnant women and families affected by Zika virus, and to improve prevention of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.

Make a New Plan: Texas Physicians Offer 50 Ways to Fix MACRA
TMA on Monday sent a 27-page formal comment letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) listing TMA's 50 recommendations to improve the agency's draft rule implementing the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).

Do You Comply With the New Policy on Texting?
The Joint Commission has updated its policy on texting orders, and TMA's free member benefit, DocbookMD, remains the best way to ensure your practice's compliance.

Take Steps to Protect Your Practice From Ransomware
Ransomware attacks have become a common threat for hospitals and physician practices throughout the United States and Texas. Ransomware can completely disable a practice by encrypting the patient data, essentially making it inaccessible until the ransom is paid. There are things you can do to protect your practice.

How Will Your Practice Thrive in Post-SGR Medicare?
The Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) is gone, so now what's next? Is your practice ready for quality-based payment? Is that even the right direction for you to go? With the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 taking effect and the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System on the horizon, making no changes may cost you, but implementing changes (the wrong way) may cost you more.

BCBSTX to Drop Individual PPO Plans
The Dallas Morning News reported last month that about 367,000 Texans "will lose their individual health insurance policies next year when BlueCross BlueShield of Texas stops offering its Blue Choice PPO [preferred provider organization] plans." The insurer said it paid out $400 million more in claims in 2014 than it collected in premiums.

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.

Guard Your Practice Against Employee Theft
Medical practices are especially vulnerable to embezzlement, in part, because they are typically cash businesses. According to a 2009 Medical Group Management Association study, 83 percent of the medical practices polled had been the victim of employee theft or embezzlement. But because medical offices are run by a close-knit staff, it can be hard for a physician to imagine any employees stealing from the practice.

TMA's Accountable Care Leadership Program(1)
Participants in the 10-month certificate program get schooled in topics like communication skills, teamwork, and population health management, meant to help physicians adapt in a rapidly changing environment that demands more accountability and proof of value for the health care dollar.

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.

TMA Accountable Care Leadership Program Enrolling for 2016
Are you ready to lead in the new health care landscape? TMA is now accepting applications for the 2016 Accountable Care Leadership Program. Applications are due Jan. 15. View the sample curriculum, get more information, or apply on the TMA website.

Be One of Tomorrow's Physician Leaders
The TMA Accountable Care Leadership Program graduated its inaugural class this month. The program helps ensure physicians are leading the charge in health care transformation and supports the development of physician-led organizations. The program is recruiting for the 2016 class now. If you're interested in participating, email christina.shepherd@texmed.org. The next class is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2016.

You Don't Have to Pay to Get Paid
Would you pay $50 to deposit $1,000 into your back account? You might be doing just that when health plans pay you with a virtual credit card (VCC). Many are paying that way, and you could be losing as much as 2 percent to 5 percent per transaction. For example, if you receive a $1,000 VCC payment from a health plan, you could lose $20 to $50 in processing fees. In essence, your charge for your services from that payer shrunk by that amount.

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.

Texas Negligence Case to Proceed in New Mexico
Texas physician Eldo Frezza, MD, is facing a negligence lawsuit filed in New Mexico, but he has organized medicine on his side. Frezza v. Montaño has reached the New Mexico Supreme Court after lower courts ruled New Mexico law should apply to the case. Texas Alliance for Physician Access, New Mexico Medical Society, TMA, the American Medical Association, and many others, including several county medical societies, are joining to submit a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Dr. Frezza's effort to stop New Mexico law from applying to the case. Texas Medical Liability Trust is also submitting an amicus brief.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tell Congress to Continue, Expand Conrad 30 Program
Congress is back to work after its annual August recess, and the continuation of the Conrad 30 Program is on the "to-do" list. Without congressional action, the Conrad 30 Program will expire on Sept. 30, 2015. This program allows certain international medical graduate physicians who trained in the United States on J-1 visas to obtain a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement. In exchange for the waiver, the physician must work for at least three years treating medically underserved populations in the United States. Many communities rely heavily on international medical graduate physicians for their primary care needs.

DPS Automatically Renewed Current, Active CSR Permits
Senate Bill 195 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton) eliminates the controlled substances registration (CSR) permit program, effective Sept. 1, 2016. To implement the change, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) says it automatically renewed all active or current CSRs on Aug. 20, 2015. They will expire on Aug. 31, 2016. DPS adds that it will not mail new certificates with automatic renewals.

Be a Preceptor; Help Shape the Next Generation of Medicine(1)
The Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians is seeking physician mentors for the summer 2016 General Internal Medicine Statewide Preceptorship Program.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Register for DSHS Infectious Disease Response Workshops
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Section will host eight three-day workshops — one in each of the DSHS health service regions — to share in-depth, Texas-specific infectious disease preparedness and response information. The workshops will provide current strategies, assess individual levels of preparedness and response, and identify gaps in service.

UPSA ACO Reaches ACO Pact With TMA PracticeEdge, BCBSTX

TMA PracticeEdge today announces the signing of an agreement to provide ACO Services to UPSA ACO, LLC (UPSA), a group of San Antonio physicians, in conjunction with a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) value-based agreement beginning Jan. 1, 2016. 



Doctors: Expect Care Disruption From Coding Change

 

 

Most Texas physicians say they are not confident their practices are prepared to use the new ICD-10 medical billing and coding system by Oct. 1, according to a new report. 



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.

Participate in the Texas Two Step Mass CPR Event
Help the Texas College of Emergency Physicians, HealthCorps, TMA, and the American College of Emergency Physicians make history Feb. 6 by joining Texas medical students at the Texas Two Step CPR training. The goal of the event is to break the world record by teaching 20,000 people in one day to save a life with two simple steps: call 911, and initiate hands-only CPR.

New Resource for Children With Special Health Care Needs
Do you see children with special needs in your practice? There's a new resource you can share with their parents. The state's Task Force for Children with Special Needs website, Navigate Life Texas, assists families, caregivers, doctors, and other medical professionals with information about the availability of services for children with disabilities and special health care needs.

Help Patients Prepare for Emergencies, Disasters
Physicians can play a significant role in helping patients prepare and respond to disaster situations. Patients, especially those with fragile health, should be counseled on the importance of having a disaster plan in place for themselves and their families.

Fist-Bump Your Doctor During Cold and Flu Season
Looking for a way to greet your patients but limit the spread of cold and flu? Citing a study published in American Journal of Infection Control, TMA member Jason Marchetti, MD, has your answer!

DSHS, CDC Urge Vigilance for Cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis
From August to October 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received an increased number of reports of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) among children. Since then, CDC has continued to receive sporadic reports of the illness. The apparent increase in AFM cases in 2014 coincided with a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness among children caused by enterovirus-D68, which resulted in an increased number of children hospitalized.

DSHS to Host Infectious Disease Response Workshops
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Section will host eight three-day workshops — one in each of the DSHS Health Service Regions — to share in-depth, Texas-specific infectious disease preparedness and response information. The workshops will provide current strategies, assess individual levels of preparedness and response, and identify gaps in service.

Dr. John Hellerstedt Is the New DSHS Commissioner
Austin pediatrician John Hellerstedt, MD, is returning to state government as the new Texas health commissioner. He will begin his new duties on Jan. 1, 2016

AMA Group Aims to Reduce Inappropriate Opioid Prescribing
Physicians have a professional obligation to reverse the nation's opioid epidemic. That's the message of the American Medical Association Task Force to Reduce Prescription Opioid Abuse. The task force focuses on reducing the inappropriate prescribing of opioids and the growing crisis of heroin overdose and death. The task force, chaired by AMA Chair-Elect Patrice A. Harris, MD, includes physician leaders and staff from across the nation. For more information, AMA members can log in and download the Task Force Overview document.

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.

High Court to Hear Tobacco Tax Case
The Texas Supreme Court has accepted an appeal of a lower court ruling that invalidated a tax the legislature applied to so-called "small tobacco." Back in 1998, the nation's five largest tobacco companies settled a case with Texas and 45 other states over the health care costs of cigarette smoking. They agreed to pay $10 billion a year indefinitely to the states.

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.

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.

Changes to Syphilis Testing Requirements for Pregnant Women
Effective Sept. 1, every pregnant woman must be tested for syphilis at her first prenatal visit and again during the third trimester, no earlier than 28 weeks gestation. Pregnant women had previously been required to be tested at their first prenatal care visit and at delivery. The testing requirement changes became law with passage of Senate Bill 1128 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).

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.

CDC Provides MERS Virus Evaluation Guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hosted a call with doctors on June 11 to brief them with updated information and guidelines for evaluating Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus. The interim guidance doesn't include travel advisories, but concern about the virus has grown since the Republic of Korea reported to the World Health Organization an initial case of laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV infection on May 20. CDC says it represents the first case in what is now the largest single outbreak of MERS-CoV outside of the Arabian Peninsula.

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.

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.

TMA to Congress: Act Now on Zika Funding
Not surprisingly, partisan political wrangling has delayed congressional action on funding states need to prepare for and fight the Zika virus. And now it's mosquito season. Texas is home to 85 different species of mosquito, including the Aedes aegypti, the primary carrier of Zika.

2015: A Record-Breaking Year for TMA Foundation
TMA Foundation-funded initiatives reached more Texans in 2015 thanks to the generosity of donors and the work of hundreds of volunteers. Read about the record amount in grants that helped create a Healthy Now and a Healthy Future for more Texans. Or watch the video.

STAT!Ref Available Soon to TMA Members
Beginning in August, the TMA Knowledge Center will offer STAT!Ref® to TMA members. Access will be available through the TMA Journal and databases page on the TMA website.

Preceptors 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 (GIMSPP) and beyond.

Oppose VA Rule for Independent Nurse Practices
As expected, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a proposed rule that would allow advanced practice nurses (APRNs) — nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists — to practice independently within the VA health system. While this doesn't change state scope-of-practice laws for APRNs working outside the VA system, it overrides those laws for care being provided inside the VA.

Victory! Marriage and Family Therapists Can't Diagnose
In a scope-of-practice victory for medicine, the Supreme Court of Texas upheld the Third Court of Appeals' decision that the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists' (MFT's) diagnostic assessment rule exceeds the scope of marriage and family therapy.

Help Prevent Zika Virus With Tools From DSHS
You can help the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) prevent the spread of Zika virus by downloading and printing educational materials to display in your office from the department's Zika toolkit. The toolkit features posters, push cards, and fact sheets, as well as TV and radio spots and graphics you can share and post via social media. DSHS also 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.

Register for HHSC’s Antibiotic Overuse Webinar on June 16

Register for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's (HHSC's) free webinar, Antibiotic overuse: The scope of the problem and options for improvement, on June 16 at 2 pm CST. Katherine E. Fleming-Dutra, MD, medical epidemiologist with the Office of Antibiotic Stewardship in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will conduct the webinar.



AMA Analyzes Potential Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna Mergers
The combined impact of proposed mergers among four of the nation's largest health insurance companies would exceed federal antitrust guidelines designed to preserve competition in as many as 97 metropolitan areas within Texas and 16 other states, according to new special analyses of commercial health insurance markets issued by the American Medical Association.

TMA Wants Meaningful Use Hardship Exception
TMA President Tom Garcia, MD, told U.S. Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-GA), in a letter that TMA supports his H.R. 3940, the Meaningful Use Hardship Relief Act of 2015. The bill authorizes a meaningful use significant hardship exception for the 2015 reporting period due to the delay in timely publication of the Stage 2 meaningful use rule. Support for HR 3940 is part of TMA's advocacy efforts to put the meaning back in meaningful use.

Stay Up to Date on Drug Info With PDR Alerts
Make sure you're receiving U.S. Food and Drug Administration-mandated and product-related patient safety alerts the minute they are issued by registering for Physicians' Desk Reference Drug Alerts. This free service also provides information on drug recalls and approvals.

Meaningful Use? Or Meaningless Abuse
The federal government never seems to tire in its campaign to heap more useless requirements onto physicians' practices. Despite the hard work of the Texas Medical Association and organized medicine, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services insists on moving ahead with Stage 3 of the meaningful use electronic health record incentive program.

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.

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.

OIG Focuses Fraud Efforts on Physician Compensation
A recent U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) fraud alert warns that physician compensation arrangements may result in significant liability.

MACRA: Good, Bad, or Downright Ugly for Physicians?
TMA and Texas physicians cheered when Congress repealed Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula last year. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) not only removed the constant threat of Medicare payment cuts, it also promised to simplify the ever-tightening thicket of federal regulations that strangle physicians' practices.

Don't Miss the Texas Primary Care and Health Home Summit
Today is the last day to register for 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.

Special Travel Deals for TMA Members
TMA is proud to announce a newly approved travel program for members through Gohagan & Company, a leading provider of international and domestic travel experiences. TMA members, friends, and family are invited to take the inaugural tour Feb. 12–21, 2017 to explore the Wonders of the Galapagos Islands. Bohn Allen, MD and his wife, Ann, will serve as hosts throughout the trip.

Fight Bacterial Pneumonia With TMA Vaccination Grant
Bacterial pneumonia is the second-leading cause of potentially preventable hospitalizations in Texas. TMA's Be Wise — ImmunizeSM Local Impact Grants can help counties with high rates of the disease to improve this statistic — or meet other vaccination needs — with local vaccination events.

Focus on Member Services: Business of Medicine
Your TMA membership delivers expertise on the business of medical practice. Physician members turn to TMA for help with challenges like contract negotiation and structuring salaries, and for access to dynamic programs like the TMA Leadership College.

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.

DSHS Recommends Testing Patients With Cyclospora Symptoms
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) recommends testing patients for the parasite Cyclospora if they have diarrheal illness lasting more than a few days or diarrhea accompanied by severe anorexia or fatigue. Diagnosis of cyclosporiasis requires submission of stool specimens for "Ova and Parasite" testing with additional specific orders for Cyclospora identification. DSHS says a single negative stool specimen does not exclude the diagnosis; three specimens are optimal.

TMA Asks HHSC to Request More Medicaid, Public Health Funds
It's that time in the state's two-year budget cycle when state agencies prepare funding requests for the Texas Legislature to consider in next year's session. No agency's budget is more important to physicians than that of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), whose massive portfolio includes the state's Medicaid, public health, mental health, and women's health programs.

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 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.

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.

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.

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."

Lawmakers Pass Pair of TMA's Priority Immunization Bills
Last week, the Texas House of Representatives gave initial approval to two of TMA's priority immunization bills, both authored by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville).

Latest CDC Texas HPV Vaccination Report Focuses on New 9-Valent Vaccine
Did you know that at its February meeting the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the 9-valent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as one of three HPV vaccines that can be used for females and one of two vaccines that can be used for males? You'll find details on the new vaccine along with Texas-specific information in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's third quarter HPV vaccination report.

Revised Student Vaccine Requirements Available
The revised 2015-2016 Texas Minimum State Vaccine Requirements for Students Grade K-12 is now available from the Texas Department of State Health Services Immunization Branch. School administrators, health personnel, and parents will receive letters regarding the revised immunization requirements, which play a vital role in maintaining the health and well-being of Texas students.

CDC Changes 2015-16 Flu Vaccine Recommendations
Among the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' recommendations for the 2015-16 influenza season are changes to the composition of the vaccines and revised recommendations for children. What hasn't changed is the recommendation for a routine annual vaccination for everyone aged 6 months and older who does not have contraindications.