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Volume 18, No. 31                   

Sept. 26, 2016            

Conference Speakers Focus on MACRA, Zika, Telemedicine

If you missed our 2016 TMA Fall Conference, you missed a display not only of the complex issues confronting medicine today but also of the strength of the response TMA is bringing.

  • During a panel on “Mind-Numbing MACRA,” Council on Socioeconomics Chair John Carlo, MD, led a discussion of the challenges physicians face in complying with the pending rules for the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. Along with David Gans of the Medical Group Management Association; Clifford Moy, MD, of TMF Health Quality Institute; and Rich Steinle of Innovista Health Solutions, Dr. Carlo helped the audience understand all of MACRA’s fast-moving pieces and the tools and resources TMA has to help.
  • Turning to the public health threat posed by the Zika virus, TMA President Don Read, MD, and Council on Science and Public Health Chair David Lakey, MD, led a panel that explored the late-breaking science on this disease. “Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and our congressmen throw tomatoes at each other and fail to fund Zika,” Dr. Read said. Texas Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, and Houston obstetrician Catherine Eppes, MD, both added extensive expertise to the discussion. Dr. Lakey estimated the cost to the state for a lifetime of caring for a child born with microcephaly due to Zika at $2.5 million to $10 million.
  • And at the early morning Dawn Duster session, attorney Tara Kepler of Kepler Health Law laid out compliance craters — from prescribing to HIPAA — and payment potholes related to practicing telemedicine in Texas.

 Medicine Visits Congressional Leaders in D.C.

Using a sports analogy, we had a home-and-home series this week with U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville). I had the chance to spend some quality time discussing MACRA and other key issues with Dr. Burgess in Washington. On Saturday, he stopped by TMA Fall Conference, spoke to the Texas Delegation to the American Medical Association, and visited with TMA members at the TEXPAC booth. On Capitol Hill, TMA chief lobbyist Darren Whitehurst and I also met with U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) and staff for House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands). Along with our colleagues from the California and Florida state medical associations, we had the opportunity to visit with other congressional leaders, such as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

Half of All U.S. Physicians Say They Are Burned Out

U.S. physicians love their patients and hate paperwork. Unfortunately, a newly released survey by The Physicians Foundation finds that the paperwork is winning. 54 percent of physicians surveyed say their morale is somewhat or very negative, and 49 percent say they either often or always feel burned out. As a result, 48 percent plan to cut back on hours, retire, take a nonclinical job, switch to “concierge” medicine, or take other steps that will further limit patients’ access to care. Regulatory/paperwork burdens and loss of clinical autonomy are the primary sources of physician dissatisfaction. More than two-thirds (72 percent) say these third-party intrusions detract from the quality of care they can provide. I want to personally thank all the Texas physicians who took the time to answer the survey; I will have some Texas-specific data in coming weeks.

TEXPAC Honors Chairman Todd Hunter as a True Friend of Medicine

No one combines great positions on health care policy, an excellent relationship with local physicians, and a powerful seat in the Texas Legislature quite like State Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi). TEXPAC presented Chairman Hunter — he leads the House Calendars Committee — Friday night with our Friend of Medicine Award. Ostensibly, the honor came for his hard work on behalf of medicine during the 2015 legislative session. In reality, it recognized the outstanding working relationship we have enjoyed with Chairman Hunter during his two stints in the House covering 16 years since 1989. Thanks for all you do!

Sharing the Love With First Responders

Part of the upshot of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is the increased use of the phrase “first responder” to describe the police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel who arrive first on the scene to save life, limb, and property. Similarly, Sept. 11 has become a day when we pause to honor those brave men and women. Earlier this month, on the 15th anniversary of the attacks, the Dallas Cowboys celebrated first responders at halftime of their game against, quite fittingly, the New York Giants. A few minutes later, the mother of TMA Board member Rick Snyder, MD, found several of the honored Garland Police Department members wondering where they would watch the second half. She invited them to her box where, Dr. Snyder says, “they made our day.”

Former TMA President Val Borum, MD, 1922-16

A giant in Texas health care, former TMA President Valington Fontain (Val) Borum, MD, of Fort Worth, passed away last week. A veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, Dr. Borum was a leader in Texas anesthesiology and the Tarrant County Medical Society, served as speaker of the TMA House of Delegates, and was TMA president in 1988-89. Memorial donations may be made to University Baptist Church of Fort Worth or the TMA Foundation. Condolence cards can be sent to Mrs. Borum at 1600 Texas St., Apt. 1217, Fort Worth, TX  76102.