TMA Weighs In on Legislative Interim Studies
The Texas Medical Association has sent letters to leaders of several legislative committees recommending high priority issues for the Texas Legislature to study in the interim period before the 2019 session.
The letters were sent in late September to:
- Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee;
- Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), chair of the Senate Finance Committee;
- Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), chair of the House Public Health Committee;
- Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), chair of the House Committee on Insurance;
- Rep. Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo), chair of the House Human Services Committee; and
- Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), chair of the House Appropriations’ subcommittee on health and human services.
TMA's recommendations include:
- Studying the adequacy of increased funding for graduate medical education (GME) expansions;
- Continuing efforts to improve care for women and infants, including the availability of prenatal and postpartum care;
- Expanding options for behavioral health services, particularly treatment for mothers and newborns who have addictive disorders;
- Working with TMA to simplify Medicaid's vendor drug program, to increase physician input into clinical decision making, and to align Medicaid fee-for-service and managed-care rate-setting schedules to avoid unnecessary retroactive adjustments;
- Evaluate prescription drug coverage and changes by health plans for chronically ill patients;
- Identifying and designing a process to determine standards of care during natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey;
- Making the process of receiving adult vaccinations more efficient; and
- Better promoting the state's organ donation program.
TMA is taking this proactive role in promoting these specific topics for study during the legislative interim to better position medicine’s legislative agenda for the 2019 state legislative session. Watch for updates on the interim studies in this newsletter.
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Texas Hits Peak in Newly Licensed Physicians
Almost 5,000 new physicians received medical licenses in the state’s 2017 fiscal year, a record that underscores the benefits of tort reform laws passed in 2003 and other positive factors that make Texas a good place to practice medicine.
In the year that ended Aug. 31, the Texas Medical Board issued 4,719 licenses, a gain of 700 (or 17.5 percent) over the previous year and 424 (9.9 percent) more than the old record set in 2015.
Texas has licensed more than 49,000 physicians, or an average of 3,500 every year, since 2003. In the 14 years before then, the board issued about 32,000 licenses, or an average of 2,300 annually.
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State Graduate Medical Education Expansion Grants Yield Results
Also in the 2017 fiscal year, 63 residency programs received a total of $49 million through the state’s Graduate Medical Education Expansion Grant Program, which lawmakers established in 2014 to keep medical school graduates in Texas.
The majority of funding, 70 percent, went to residency positions in primary care. An additional 14 percent was allocated for psychiatry training, while the remaining 16 percent went to non-primary care positions.
Programs receiving funding were located throughout Texas, including Houston, Dallas, Edinburg, Round Rock, Lubbock, Amarillo, and El Paso.
Under the residency expansion grant program, the state has provided grants for 237 individual first-year residency positions since 2014.
Despite an overall lean 2018-19 state biennial budget, $97 million was appropriated for graduate medical education expansion grants, a net increase of $44 million or 83 percent over the previous biennium. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board estimates this amount will provide funding over two years for 1,287 residency positions and an estimated 30 new positions.
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MD Anderson Veteran Unanimously Chosen President
The University of Texas System regents tapped a long-time surgeon and administrator at MD Anderson Cancer Center as president of the Houston-based cancer facility.
Peter Pisters, MD, a Canadian-born sarcoma surgeon who has been president and CEO of University Health Network of Toronto since 2015, was chosen unanimously Aug. 25.
Dr. Pisters spent 20 years at MD Anderson, most recently as vice president, before leaving in 2014 for Canada. He also served as medical director of MD Anderson's six regional cancer centers, clinical consultant for its Center for Global Oncology, and section chief for sarcoma surgery.
Dr. Pisters will be the fifth president of the 70-year-old institution. He takes over from Ronald DePinho, MD, who resigned in March.
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Help Create a Healthier Texas at Summit
How can academic physicians improve obesity rates in Texas? What can Texas physicians do to curb poor nutrition and physical inactivity in their patients?
Those are some of the questions that will be addressed at the Healthier Texas Summit, a joint event of The University of Texas System and It’s Time Texas, a nonprofit organization focused on improving health and wellness in the state.
The summit, happening Nov. 6 and 7 at the Hilton Austin, is part of the Healthier Texas initiative, designed to reduce the burden of preventable chronic disease, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of all deaths in Texas.
The event will feature 35 sessions, town hall conversations, interactive workshops, and two symposiums: What’s Next? Health and the 85th Legislative Session, and Collective Action Approaches to Improve Community Health. Continuing professional education credits will be offered for a variety of professions, including for community health workers and health educators.
Online registration is open until Oct. 29, and sponsorship opportunities are also available.
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Network, Influence Health Policy at AMA Academic Meeting in Hawaii
Help shape the American Medical Association’s legislative advocacy agenda, earn continuing medical education credits, network with other academic physicians, and bask on the beach at the AMA Academic Physicians Section Interim Meeting set for Nov. 10-11 in Honolulu.
The interim meeting, which is free to AMA members, will include several breakout sessions, including:
- Trends in academic medicine: Community preceptors, innovations in pedagogy, and more;
- Advocacy: What roles exist for physicians?;
- Achieving health equity through organized medicine as physician leaders; and
- Outside of the box: Physician innovators and entrepreneurs.
Physicians also will have the opportunity to judge the AMA’s 15th annual research symposium, which features abstracts by medical students, residents, fellows, and international medical graduates.
More information, including how to register for the Interim Meeting at the Hawaii Convention Center and Hilton Hawaiian Village Honolulu, can be found on the AMA website.
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TMA Scholarships Help Students Fulfill Dreams of Becoming a Physician
Growing up in El Paso, Amanda Arreola always perceived medical care as a luxury. Her family didn't have much money. Both of her parents had only high school degrees; both of their parents were immigrants.
"Going to the doctor was not a thing, unless it was an emergency,” she said. “And if you were to go see a doctor, El Paso was too expensive, so you went across the border to seek medical attention in Mexico."
Not until she arrived at Baylor University in Waco did Ms. Arreola realize "the normal average person doesn't do that. There's no border in the middle of Texas. The disparities were very apparent once I moved. That had a lot to do with why I chose medicine."
However, excitement over her acceptance into the inaugural class at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) School of Medicine in 2016 soon turned to worry over how she could afford it. An email from TMA announcing she had won TMA's $10,000 Minority Scholarship "was the first step for me that this was actually going to happen. It's an amazing feeling, and I am so grateful to TMA for that."
Since 1999, TMA has awarded annual scholarships to first-year Hispanic, African-American, and Native American students at each Texas medical school.
The program — made possible since 2004 with grant funding from the Texas Medical Association Foundation (TMAF, TMA’s philanthropic arm) — has encouraged nearly 200 minority students under-represented in Texas medical schools to enter the profession by lightening their financial load.
“We have so many brilliant minority students who may not have the opportunity if they didn’t have scholarship funding or access to loans,” said TMAF board member and donor E. Linda Villarreal, MD. The program “is an investment in TMA because [students] are going to know TMA helped them and they are going to come back, and that’s paying it forward.”
Nearly 500 physicians, as well as many county medical societies and corporations, have supported the TMA Minority Scholarship Program with tax-deductible gifts to TMA Foundation. Those contributions have enhanced the award amount from $5,000 to $10,000 as of 2016.
“This is an investment in our children. This is an investment in your mother having a doctor,” Dr. Villarreal said.
For more information, including how to apply for a 2018 scholarship, visit the TMAF website.
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Commentary: Expanding Education Can Help Curb Opioid Epidemic
Expanding education in addiction medicine, including setting up a dedicated fellowship at every medical school, can help the United States reverse its current opioid epidemic, the president and executive vice president of the Addiction Medicine Foundation wrote in a recent commentary published in the Association of American Medical College’s newsletter.
In their commentary, published in September, President Robert J. Sokol, MD, and Executive Vice President Kevin Kunz, MD, acknowledge recent advances in how addiction is understood and treated.
“In 2016, the American Board of Medical Specialties recognized addiction medicine as a new subspecialty,” the physicians wrote. “Such acknowledgment shows that the academic medicine community is committed to approaching addiction as a treatable disease and not perpetuating the stigma of addiction as a moral failing, bad behavior, or a crime.”
However, because only about 2,000 physicians in the United States are trained in addiction psychiatry and about 3,500 are trained in addiction medicine, patients often struggle to find physicians who can treat their needs, the doctors wrote.
New GME positions in addiction medicine would “produce specialists who are prepared not only to treat patients with substance-use disorders, but also to educate faculty, medical students, and residents.”
Unfortunately, “the cap on federal support for GME positions decreases the ability of institutions to establish these critical training programs.”
In the meantime, the doctors wrote, physicians who have experience with opioid patients should advocate for effective evidence-based treatment and against laws that keep people from receiving treatment. In addition, medical schools and teaching programs should continue to integrate pain management education into curricula, and community physicians should expose students to addiction patients via student-run clinics and during clinical rotations.
“By training more physicians in addiction medicine and developing new treatments for addiction and pain management, the academic medicine community can help fight this epidemic,” the doctors wrote. “Our patients and our country require that we do everything we can.”
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This Month in Texas Medicine
The October issue of Texas Medicine looks at the effects of TMA-supported legislation to loosen maintenance of certification (MOC) requirements. Thanks to that law, Texas is now a national leader in reducing the onerousness of MOC on physicians, but what will the new law do once it takes effect at the beginning of 2018, and what could it do to keep more physicians in practice? The magazine also goes in depth on Environmental Protection Agency requirements regarding medical hazardous waste, as well as the importance and feasibility of paid parental leave for small practices. Other articles discuss how physicians can further understand the Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act (MACRA) Quality Payment Program, and a new book on how physicians can better market their practice.
Check out our digital edition.
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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 on the TMA website (may not work with all browsers). Or, download an RSS reader, such as Feedreader, Sharpreader, Sage, or NetNewsWire Lite, to have the feed delivered to your desktop or mobile device. You also can subscribe to the RSS feeds for TMA news releases and for Blogged Arteries, the feed for Action.
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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, the same way you get the Texas Medicine RSS feed.
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This Just In ...
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It's Academic is designed for physicians in academic settings. For more information about TMA’s efforts on behalf of medical education and academic physicians, visit the TMA Council on Medical Education’s Subcommittee for Academic Physicians page and advocacy page on the TMA website.
Please share with your colleagues who are not TMA members and ask them to join.
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