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Volume 19, No. 2                  

Jan. 17, 2017           

Selling TMA’s Legislative Agenda — It’s All About the ROI

Money talks in Austin. I’m not talking about campaign contributions, either. With billions less to spend on the next biennium’s state budget, Texas legislators will be looking for ways to save. It’s our job to make sure they see TMA’s 2017 legislative agenda as an investment that will pay back in fewer unnecessary emergency department visits, better controlled chronic diseases, more physicians providing care in our growing state, and a healthier business climate. We’ve routinely used these arguments in promoting our public health priorities, pointing out, for example, that vaccines can save 33,000 lives nationally each year, prevent 14 million cases of disease, and reduce health care costs by $9.9 billion. I’ve directed our lobby and policy staff to put those kinds of return-on-investment numbers on our plans to improve coverage for low-income Texans, put more resources into the Texas Medical Board (TMB), regulate telemedicine appropriately, and rein in insurance industry practices that leave your patients with surprise bills.

Representative Burgess to Lead Key Congressional Panel

Congratulations to U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), who will chair a House panel that will handle much of the nuts and bolts of health system reform in the new Congress. “Americans have been crushed under the weight of the [Affordable Care Act], by its paralyzing costs, limited choices, and deafening inflexibility,” Dr. Burgess said as he was named to lead the Health Subcommittee on the Energy and Commerce Committee. “We can do better. And more importantly, we will do better.”

Medicaid Strategic Planning Session Explores Legislative Options

TMA hosted a strategic planning meeting on the future of Medicaid leading into the legislative session. The Texas Association of Health Plans and Texas Association of Community Health Plans were invited to participate along with key physician leaders. The hefty agenda included Medicaid funding, vendor drug program reform, quality initiatives and value-based payments, improving physicians’ Medicaid HMO experience, the 1115 waiver renewal/extension and how renewal fits into federal Medicaid financing reform proposals, and Medicaid block grants and per-capita caps. The group will meet again at TMA Winter Conference in Austin.

Our Minutes That Matter Video Debuts

Our Minutes That Matter PR and advertising campaign got off to a rousing start last week. In conjunction with our PR agency Edelman, we placed paid advertising on talk radio, across the internet, and on Twitter and Facebook. We are targeting our ads to the Capitol community and their key influencers. Later in the week, we unveiled a moving 30-second video that captures Texas physicians’ deep drive to care for patients. The video features four Austin physicians — Drs. Sara Austin, Kimberly Avila Edwards, David Fleeger, and Pradeep Kumar — who graciously agreed to be videotaped during the hectic week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Check out the video, let us know what you think, and then please like, repost, retweet, and otherwise share it.

2017 Texas Legislature: One Week Down, 19 to Go

The 85th Texas Legislature convened in Austin last week. The House of Representatives reelected Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) to his fifth term as speaker. The House and Senate both adopted their operating rules for the session (sounds mundane now, but those rules will play pivotal roles in the months to come), and prepared for the long grind to sine die on May 29. Comptroller Glen Hegar announced that $104.87 billion will be available in general revenue for the 2018-19 state budget; that’s a big drop from the $113 billion Comptroller Hegar estimated as available two years ago. In the first installment of our weekly TMA Legislative News Hotline video, chief lobbyist Darren Whitehurst previews the key challenges and priorities that will impact patients and physicians during the 140-day session.

Abbott Names Six New TMB Members

Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Houston anesthesiologist Sherif Zaafran, MD, an active TMA and TEXPAC member, to TMB and named him president of the board. Dr. Zaafran is president of US Anesthesia Partners, Southwest Division. The governor appointed three additional TMA members to TMB: diagnostic radiologist Kandace Farmer, DO, of Highland Village; Livingston family physician Jeffrey Luna, MD; and internist Jayaram Naidu, MD, of Odessa. Governor Abbott also named two nonphysician members to the board: Michael Cokinos of Houston and LuAnn Morgan of Midland. Following confirmation by the Senate, the terms of all six new members will expire on April 13, 2021.