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 Volume 18, No. 16                   

May 2, 2016            


Delegates Vote to Preserve Billing Rights, Fight MOC Coercion

The House of Delegates on Saturday gave TMA “the green light to fight for state legislation that will address two crucial issues for Texas physicians.” That’s the conclusion TMA Council on Legislation Chair Ray Callas, MD, shares in an open letter today to all TMA member physicians. House approval of these two items is what spurred Dr. Callas’ delight: 

  • The TMA Board of Trustees’ multifaceted plan to preserve physicians’ right to bill for services provided to patients, and
  • A Harris County Medical Society proposal that would “free us from the pressure” of the American Board of Medical Specialties’ maintenance of certification (MOC) requirements. 

“I am tremendously excited by these actions, and I pledge to you that your TMA leadership will follow through,” Dr. Callas wrote. I share his excitement — and his pledge. On the house floor, Council on Socioeconomics Chair Joe Valenti, MD, called the billing question “the single most important issue that we have taken on since tort reform.”

In action on other key items, the delegates: 

  • Approved a report calling for “competitive Medicaid payments” and reduced red tape for physicians participating in the program, and for TMA to “reiterate its commitment toward finding a path forward to expand access to health care for poor and low-income Texans;”
  • Directed the Board of Trustees to create a task force to study the Texas Medical Board’s schedule of physician disciplinary sanctions;
  • Adopted guidelines for health plans to use in maintaining current and accurate physician and provider directories;
  • Called for stronger federal oversight and better quality studies of complementary and alternative medicine;
  • Adopted a six-point plan for promoting careers in psychiatry among medical students;
  • Approved a resolution aimed at developing direct primary care in Texas;
  • Directed TMA to work for legislation to ban handguns from state psychiatric facilities;
  • Called for better suicide-prevention training for correctional officers;
  • Voted for TMA to recommend that employers grant maternity and paternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child; and
  • Extended the life of the TMA International Medical Graduate Section for one more year. 

Dr. Read and Debbie Pitts Take the Stage

Pointing out that TMA is “20 years older than blue jeans and twice as strong,” Dallas colon and rectal surgeon Don Read, MD, took office as the association’s 151st president. In his installation address, Dr. Read touted initiatives such as TMA PracticeEdge and urged physicians to become active members of TEXPAC. He recounted his struggle to recover from West Nile virus encephalitis in 2005 and told the crowd, “I had to work hard and fight hard to recover from West Nile virus. I pledge that as your president, I will work just as hard for you.” Immediately before Dr. Read’s speech, Debbie Pitts assumed the president’s pin as the new leader of the TMA Alliance. A committed volunteer for the alliance and many causes in Tyler, Debbie is proud to lead the organization into its 100th year. “A strong and vital membership is necessary to impact Texas medicine and its future,” she said.

Dr. Cardenas Chosen TMA President-Elect

Members of the TMA House of Delegates chose Edinburg gastroenterologist Carlos Cardenas, MD, to be the new TMA president-elect. Dr. Cardenas, chair of the board of the Rio Grande Valley’s Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, is the TMA liaison to the Coalition of State Medical Societies, and is a former chair of the TMA Board of Trustees and former president of the Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society. He will take office as president at TexMed 2017 in Houston next May. In other election results, the House of Delegates: 

  • Reelected to the Board of Trustees Doug Curran, MD, of Athens; Diana Fite, MD, of Houston; and David Fleeger, MD, of Austin;
  • Reelected Susan Strate, MD, of Wichita Falls as speaker of the house, and Arlo Weltge, MD, of Houston as vice speaker;
  • Selected Frisco emergency medicine physician Carrie de Moor, MD, as the young physician member of the Board of Trustees; and
  • Elected two new alternate delegates to the Texas Delegation to the American Medical Association: Longview obstetrician-gynecologist Jerry McLaughlin, MD, and Houston internist Elizabeth Torres, MD. 

Board members chose Dr. Curran to stay on as board chair, and David Henkes, MD, of San Antonio to continue as vice chair. Dr. Fleeger is the new board secretary, and Drs. Linda Villarreal of Edinburg and Gary Floyd of Fort Worth are the at-large members of the executive committee. Laura Faye Gephart, MD, returns as the resident and fellow member of the board, and Kayla Riggs, a third-year student at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, is the new student member of the board. 

Dr. Annis Inspires With Distinguished Service Award Speech

Austin anesthesiologist Joe Annis, MD, brought the crowd to rapturous applause as he accepted the Distinguished Service Award, TMA’s highest honor. He has been a dedicated leader of TMA, AMA, the Travis County Medical Society, the Texas Society of Anesthesiologists, and the Austin medical community for nearly 40 years. “Medicine is not just what I do; it’s who I am,” Dr. Annis said. “It’s not just prose; it’s poetry too.” We broadcast his address live on the TMA Facebook page. You can enjoy a recording of it there (even if you’re not on Facebook). Among other TexMed awards: 

  • Dallas internist Lynn M. Kirk, MD, received the Platinum Award for Excellence in Academic Medicine. 
  • The Young Physician Section honored Houston emergency medicine physician Angela Siler Fisher, MD, with its Young at Heart Award.
  • Galveston radiation oncologist Martin Colman, MD, received the J.T. “Lamar” McNew, MD, Award for his service to physicians-in-training.
  • The Medical Student Section named University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Professor Ben Raimer, MD, the TMA C. Frank Webber, MD, Award honoree for 2016 for his “close mentorship and dedication to medical student involvement in organized medicine.”
  • Patrick Crowley, a second-year medical student at the University of North Texas Health Science Center Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, was named Student of the Year. Medical student Chapter of the Year went to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-El Paso Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.

TexMed Tidbits

I’m sure I’ll think of some other items to add next week, but wanted to note: 

  • U.S. Sen. John Cornyn mixed and mingled with several dozen physicians at a TEXPAC fundraising event before speaking at the TexMed 2016 Opening General Session. The senior senator from Texas discussed his plans to improve mental health services and promised to keep a close eye on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as it rolls out rules to implement the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.
  • Senator Cornyn mentioned it confidentially on Friday, but the Texas Health and Human Services Commission formally announced today that it has reached an agreement with CMS on a 15-month extension of the state’s 1115 Waiver, which funds uncompensated care and the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program. 
  • Outgoing TMA President Tom Garcia, MD, thanked the association’s members, leaders, and staff for a terrific year. He closed his farewell address to the House of Delegates with an important reminder: “Don’t ever forget … we are not providers … we are not practitioners … we are proud, strong, superb physicians. We are Texas physicians.”

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