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Volume 18, No. 30                   

Sept. 19, 2016            

All the Action This Weekend Is at Lost Pines

Just a few minutes from downtown Austin lies the Lost Pines Forest, a stand of towering trees so named because the trees are disconnected by hundreds of miles from their East Texas cousins. Leaders of TMA, definitely not disconnected from our nearly 50,000 members, gather at the Hyatt Lost Pines this weekend to explore the hottest issues in health care at our 2016 Fall Conference. We begin training our next class of the TMA Leadership College. A bevy of new grassroots leaders joins their more-established brethren on dozens of TMA boards, councils, and committees to craft TMA policy and strategies on issues such as Medicaid payments and balance billing. Saturday’s sessions feature these homegrown and outside experts:

  • Dawn Duster — Telemedicine: Understanding It, Dealing With It, and Driving It, presented by attorney Tara Kepler of Kepler Health Law
  • Mind-numbing MACRA — Strategies for Survival, moderated by Council on Socioeconomics Chair John Carlo, MD, with this panel: 
    • David Gans, senior fellow for industry affairs, Medical Group Management Association
    • Clifford Moy, MD, director, behavioral health, TMF Health Quality Institute
    • Catherine S. Eppes, MD, assistant professor and director of obstetrical quality and safety, Ben Taub, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Zika: What to Tell your Patients, moderated by TMA President Don Read, MD, with this panel:
    • Rich L. Steinle, president and chief executive officer, Innovista Health Solutions
    • John Hellerstedt, MD, commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services
    • David Lakey, MD, associate vice chancellor, population health, The University of Texas System
    • Catherine S. Eppes, MD, assistant professor and director of obstetrical quality and safety, Ben Taub, Baylor College of Medicine

I look forward to seeing you there.

 Border Health Conference Attracts Congressional Interest

TMA’s Border Health Caucus once again traveled to the nation’s capital to draw lawmakers’ attention to the unique health and health care challenges along the U.S.-Mexico border. TMA President-Elect Carlos Cardenas, MD; Board of Trustees Chair Doug Curran, MD; Border Caucus Chair Manny Acosta, MD; and Caucus Co-chair Luis Benevidez, MD, led the delegation that also included seven medical students from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in El Paso. U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) addressed and helped to organize the 11th Annual Border Health Conference, which also featured presentations from U.S. Reps. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), Ruben Hinojosa (D-Mercedes), Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Houston), and Gene Green (D-Houston.) Roundtable discussions focused on veterans’ mental health care and access to community physicians, feasible options to improve the Affordable Care Act, and the need for funding to contain and treat emergent epidemic diseases such as Zika and tuberculosis.

 Dr. Read Publishes and Speaks  

Dr. Read traveled to San Antonio for a membership meeting of the Bexar County Medical Society. In his presentation, Stand Up!, Dr. Read discussed what TMA is doing on such important issues as the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and preparation for the Zika virus. He called on San Antonio physicians to become more involved with TMA and to join TEXPAC. Dr. Read also published two op-ed columns:

  • Does the government know what it’s doing to physicians?” in the KevinMD blog looks at the recent Texas-inspired research that found “physicians spend almost twice as much time each day typing on computers and filling out paperwork as they do seeing patients.” The blame, he explained, “comes back to an alphabet soup of government regulations that definitely were written by someone who’s never been in the exam room with a patient.”
  • In our own Me and My Doctor blog, Dr. Read published “Improve Naloxone Distribution to Curb Overdoses.” On the one-year anniversary of a new law allowing physicians to write open prescriptions for overdose-reversal drugs like naloxone, Dr. Read prescribes the next steps for Texas to take in tackling the opioid abuse epidemic.

 Post-Tort Reform, State Sets Another Record in Physician License Applications  

 A rapidly growing population, one of the best climates in which to practice medicine, and — of course — our landmark 2003 medical liability reforms continue to attract physicians to Texas in record numbers. In the state fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, the Texas Medical Board (TMB) received a record 5,544 applications for new physician licenses, up 3 percent from the previous year’s record. TMB received more than twice as many applications this year as it did at the height of the state’s liability crisis 13 years ago.

Our Recommended Medicaid Improvements Can Improve Care, Reduce Costs

As state lawmakers begin preparing for the 2017 legislative session, TMA and four state specialty societies delivered a detailed, five-page document with significant recommendations to improve the Texas Medicaid program. Among the suggestions we submitted to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee:

  • Enact creative solutions to increase health care coverage among low-income Texans;
  • Cut Medicaid managed care red tape and pay physicians competitive Medicaid and CHIP rates;
  • Promote better birth outcomes by enhancing women’s access to preventive, primary, and behavioral health care;
  • Increase access to evidence-based community and crisis mental health and substance abuse services; and
  • Improve state efforts to provide women's preventive and primary care.

TMA Survey Documents the State of EHRs in Texas

TMA’s biennial Physician Survey is one of the most comprehensive, long-running research tools of its kind. Every other year, thousands of Texas physicians provide details of their practice operations and the problems they face. The survey results help us prepare for the coming legislative session. They also unearth interesting kernels about the state of physician practices in Texas. Preliminary results from this year’s survey, for example, revealed that most Texas physicians use an electronic health record (EHR), but problems persist. We’ve distilled the findings into a two-page infographic that highlights Texas physicians’ perceptions of the pros and cons of EHRs. Do you agree?