Dec 26, 2007

A Lump of Coal

A Lump of Coal:

Congress has headed off the planned 10.1-percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians scheduled for Jan. 1 and replaced it with a wholly-inadequate 0.5-percent fee increase for six months, which will result in the continued slow-bleeding of physicians …

Dec 13, 2007

Workers' Comp E-Billing Starts Jan. 1

Workers' Comp E-Billing Starts Jan. 1:

Physicians who treat workers' compensation patients in Texas must be able to bill electronically by Jan. 1 if they did not qualify for and file for an exemption waiver by Oct. 31.

Dec 10, 2007

Medicare Fee Cut Two Weeks Away

Medicare Fee Cut Two Weeks Away:

Time is running out for you to let Congress know that it must do something to avoid the 10.1-percent cut in physicians' Medicare fees scheduled for Jan. 1.

2008 TMA Minority Scholarships Are Available

2008 TMA Minority Scholarships Are Available:

Eight in 2008! For the second consecutive year, the TMA Minority Scholarship Program is offering $5,000 scholarships to eight qualified incoming Texas medical students.

TDI Bans Temporary Agents

TDI Bans Temporary Agents:

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has banned temporary agents from selling Medicare Advantage plans during the annual enrollment that ends Dec. 31.

TEXPAC plans San Antonio Retreat

TEXPAC plans San Antonio Retreat:

TMA, TEXPAC, the TMA Alliance, and specialty societies will start the 2008 election year with the TEXPAC Grassroots Forum Jan. 4-6 at the La Cantera Resort in San Antonio.

Some Lenders Ignoring 20/220 Reinstatement

Some Lenders Ignoring 20/220 Reinstatement:

Even though the U.S. Department of Education has temporarily reinstated the "20/220 pathway" economic hardship loan deferment option that Congress eliminated in September, the American Medical Association says several residents have reported that some …

Texas Medicaid Program Gets a PERM

Texas Medicaid Program Gets a PERM:

Starting in January, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin using the Payment Error Rate Measurement process to measure improper payments in the Texas Medicaid Program and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Dec 4, 2007

Tell Leavitt What You Think

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt wants all physicians to put electronic health records in their offices and use e-prescribing if they want Congress to prevent the pending 10-percent cut in Medicare payments. The secretary outlines his reasoning on his blog, which accepts comments. There's an excerpt below, but log on and read Secretary Leavitt's musings ... and then let him know what you think.
Doctors want Congress, in the next couple of weeks, to once again override the Sustainable Growth Rate law. It will cost taxpayers at least $4 billion. This year it’s a 10% reduction they will be overriding. Next year it will be 15%. We just dig a bigger and bigger hole. We need to begin the process of moving toward a longer-term solution. It is the position of the Administration that any new bill overriding the SGR law should require physicians to implement health information technology that meets department standards for interoperability in order to be eligible for higher payments from Medicare. The benefits of utilizing interoperable health information technology for keeping electronic health records, prescribing drugs electronically and other purposes are clear. This technology will produce a higher quality of care, while reducing medical costs and errors, which affected an estimated 1.5 million Americans last year through prescription drug errors. Such a requirement would accelerate adoption of this technology considerably, and help to drive improvements in health care quality as well as reductions in medical costs and errors. I’m confident that many members of Congress are of a like mind on this issue and I look forward to discussing it with them in the next few days.

Nov 16, 2007

Podcast TMA: The Future of Medicare

What's wrong with Medicare? Why are physicians so upset about the program and what the government is doing to them and their patients? What can be done to save Medicare? What should individual physicians, TMA, and the AMA do now to put it back on its feet?

Podcast TMA posed these questions to three TMA leaders at the interim meeting of the AMA House of Delegates this week in Honolulu. Behind the microphone were TMA President-elect Josie Williams, MD, of Bryan-College Station; Temple cardiologist Jim Rohack, MD, a member of the AMA Board of Trustees and former TMA president; and Charlotte Smith, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation medicine specialist from Austin.

Listen to the show and please post your own thoughts in the "COMMENTS" section below.

Our experts opined that senior citizens and Texans with disabilities will soon find it harder and harder to locate a physician who accepts new Medicare patients. This is because Medicare payments to physicians come nowhere near covering the cost of providing care, and every year the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) threatens to cut payments even more unless Congress intervenes.

Among the possible solutions Drs. Smith, Rohack, and Williams explore is combining Medicare's hospital and physician trust funds (Part A and Part B, respectively) into a single payment system, permitting physicians to balance bill Medicare patients, and devising a new payment plan that actually covers the cost of providing services. They call on physicians to become actively involved in the fight by calling, writing, and visiting their U.S. senators and representatives and be being members of AMA, TMA, and their county societies.

Those physicians who are thinking of dropping out of the Medicare system should think carefully before making that decision because the repercussions are so severe.

Here are some links of interest:

Jul 6, 2007

Podcast TMA: What Did the House Do?

So physician leaders from around the country spent a week in Chicago at the AMA House of Delegates -- what did they really accomplish? Fort Worth allergist Sue Rudd Baiely, MD, chair of the Texas Delegation to the AMA, helps us wrap it up.

Download the show.

Dr. Bailey looks at the election victory of Russ Kridel, MD; the outcome of the pay-for-performance and retail health clinic debates; and the AMA's "Inititiative to Transform Medical Education."

Our "Political Action Works" segment this week features William Fleming, MD, of Houston, who tells us about State Rep. Sylvester Turner, also of Houston, and why doctors need to stay involved with their elected officials.

Jun 29, 2007

Podcast TMA: The Students Speak

Medical students are not only the next generation of America's physicians, they also are the lifeblood of organized medicine. Nearly 750 students from around the country -- including dozens from Texas -- gathered in Chicago this week for their own house of delegates meeting. (Highlights) Download the show. Just like the physicians' house, the students debated reports and resolutions and determined the AMA Medical Student Section's positions on the issues of the day. They also sent some of their own resolutions on for the physicians' house to consider. This special edition of Podcast TMA is a conversation with four Texas medical students who are new to the AMA Medical Student Section House of Delegates. Find out what they found interesting and unusual and why students back home should care what their peers are doing in Chicago. Our guests include:
  • Brittney Culp of Texas Tech - Amarillo, chair of the TMA Medical Student Section Executive Council;
  • Matt Brooker, a student at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth;
  • Alicia Cleaver, a student at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth; and
  • A.J. Jain, a student at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.

Jun 25, 2007

Podcast TMA: Taking the Lead

Drs. Rohack (left) and Annis on the floor of the AMA House of Delegates.

First you have to run for office in what are usually very tight and grueling campaigns. Then you spend days away from your practice and your family sitting in and preparing for meetings. Why would a physician want to serve on an AMA board or council?

Download the show.

This week, Podcast TMA explores the answer through interviews with three Texas doctors on the front lines of national medical leadership. They are two physician leaders of the AMA and one doctor who is running for a seat on an AMA council. Our guests are: from Temple, Jim Rohack, MD, a member and former chair of the AMA Board of Trustees; from Austin, Joe Annis, MD, another member of the AMA board; and from Houston, Russ Kridel, MD, who is running this week for the AMA Council on Science and Public Health. They tell us what AMA officials do, how the election process works, and why Texas physicians should care that their colleagues are part of the AMA leadership.

Our "Political Action Works" segment features Carlos Cardenas, MD, of McAllen, who tells us about State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, also of McAllen, and why doctors need to stay involved with their elected officials.

Jun 14, 2007

Podcast TMA: Why a House?

Podcast TMA this week begins a multi-part series looking at the upcoming meeting of the AMA House of Delegates. Download the show. Our guests this week are experts on the House of Delegates. Not only are they members of the Texas Delegation to the AMA house, they are also the two physicians who run the TMA House of Delegates. They are, from Houston, Bill Fleming, MD, the speaker of the TMA house, and from Fort Worth, Steve Brotherton, MD, the vice speaker. They explore the basic function of a house of delegates, explain why it's important for a medical association to have a house, and compare the AMA House of Delegates to the TMA house. The “Political Action Works” segment of this week's shoe features Ladon Homer, MD, of Fort Worth. He tells us about State Sen. Jane Nelson of Lewisville, the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and why doctors need to stay involved with their elected officials.