Mar 31, 2010

Dispelling the Lies: What Health Reform "Actually" Means for Seniors

This is a reply to a March 30, 2010, article on the Huffington Post. What good is health system reform if patients on Medicare have no doctor to see? Since 1992, a fundamental problem has existed in the program. It has become a huge gaping wound that jeopardizes physicians’ ability to care for their Medicare patients. Without a permanent solution, fewer and fewer Medicare patients will have access to the care they need. Care that has been promised to them. Without a permanent solution, many provisions in the reform law won’t work. Why are doctors being forced out of Medicare? Medicare uses a faulty formula to calculate physicians’ payments. The formula has mandated physician fee cuts almost every year for the past decade. Only short-term congressional fixes … Band-Aids … have stopped the cuts each year. Without a permanent solution, the cuts grow deeper each year.. Tomorrow, Medicare cuts physician payments more than 21 percent. It’s almost ironic the cut happens on April Fools’ Day, because it won’t stick. Within the next two weeks, Congress will do what it has done for the past 10 years: put another a Band-Aid on the wound. This is the fourth time Congress has frozen the cuts this year. How can doctors stay in a program with so much uncertainty? Some doctors are opting out of the Medicare program, some are taking fewer Medicare patients, some are not taking any new Medicare patients, and some doctors are leaving the profession and retiring early. Steve Levine, VP for Communication, Texas Medical Association Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Mar 29, 2010

Medicare Fees Drop Again; Claims on Hold

Medicare payments to physicians will decrease 21.3 percent April 1 because Congress went on a two-week Easter recess March 26 without doing anything to stop the cut.

Mar 26, 2010

Ban Discretionary Clauses, TMA Says

TMA 'strongly supports' a Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) proposal to ban discretionary clauses in insurance policies, TMA President William H. Fleming III, MD, says in a letter to TDI.

Physicians Make Millions for Hospitals

Physicians are not only the primary providers of medical care at the nation's hospitals, but a new survey suggests they also are key drivers of hospital revenue.

Physician Cost Profiles Often Wrong

Insurance companies that rate physicians on the cost of the care they provide are wrong almost a fourth of the time, says a RAND Corp. study published in the March 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Is the Web-enabled House Call Legal? (Podcast TMA)

The old-fashioned house call may be a thing of the past, but it hasn't disappeared completely; it has simply taken on a new shape. To keep pace with technology, physicians are constantly changing the way they communicate with patients. Physicians can now use the Internet to see patients from their homes, offices, or anywhere a Web cam is available. This method of practice is known as telemedicine. The Texas Medical Board (TMB) is examining the best way new communication tools can be used to deliver safe, quality patient care.

Download the show now.

This installment of Podcast TMA includes information on TMB regulations pertaining to the practice of telemedicine. The cover story of the March 2010 issue of Texas Medicine magazine explores a new telemedicine company that has launched its online diagnosis and treatment service in Texas and examines state law that applies to physicians who participate in telemedicine. Today, TMB Medical Director Alan T. Moore, MD, shares his insight on telemedicine practice in Texas.

This installment covers:

  • TMB's concerns with the practice of telemedicine;
  • Optimal use of telemedicine;
  • Proposed changes to TMB telemedicine rules; and
  • Guiding principles the board uses when making rules determinations.

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  • Catch up on all the old Podcast TMA episodes on the TMA Web site.
  • What's a Podcast, how do I get it, and what do I with it once I have it? (See the short tutorial on the iTunes Web site.)

Mar 18, 2010

TMA Fights for Patients and Physicians as House Prepares to Vote

First, do no harm. With the U.S. House of Representatives likely to take a historic vote on health system reform this weekend, your Texas Medical Association is engaged on multiple fronts to make sure the end result doesn’t violate the Hippocratic Oath.

Five Things You Can Do Right Now

  1. Use the TMA Grassroots Action Center today to send a strong message to Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison and your U.S. representative. Tell them to oppose the health system reform bill in the House and begin work immediately on a permanent replacement of the Medicare payment formula.
  2. Sign TMA’s online Stop the Medicare Meltdown petition and encourage your colleagues, friends, family, and neighbors to do the same.
  3. Sign TMA’s open letter to Congress (PDF) and fax it to the TMA Public Affairs Division at (512) 370-1633.
  4. Post the Stop the Medicare Meltdown petition (PDF) in your waiting areas and exam rooms for your patients to sign. Fax completed petitions to the TMA Public Affairs Division at (512) 370-1633.
  5. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.

Mar 16, 2010

Sign the Stop the Medicare Meltdown Petition

A confluence of events in Washington is pushing TMA to increase the volume of our work to enact a permanent fix to the Medicare payment formula. Despite their professed support for a new Medicare payment system for physicians, senators and representatives from both parties have done nothing to fix the formula that threatens to bankrupt physicians and leave Medicare patients without a doctor. For 10 years, they’ve done nothing to fix the single largest government health program. How can they build a new system on a broken foundation?

To educate patients on Medicare’s problems and engage all Texans in the drive to fix them, we are embarking on a campaign to gather 1 million signatures to stop the Medicare Meltdown. We begin with an open letter to Congress (PDF), which we will deliver to members of the Texas congressional delegation the last week of March at news conferences across the state. (Please see — and sign — the open letter to Congress, below.) The petition drive will include online petitions (PDF) posted on the TMA (PDF) and MeAndMyDoctor Web sites, social media petitions for Facebook and Twitter, and other tactics. We will use all of our communication vehicles and our county medical society partners to send campaign materials and the petitions to physicians and patients. We will work with community partners such as senior citizen groups, disability rights organizations, and others.

Mar 10, 2010

Hard Hats Help Promote Exercise, Safety

Seeing a kid riding a bike is as much a sign of spring as the wildflowers that blanket the state this time of year. A great way to encourage kids in your community to get out and ride – and do it safely – is with a TMA Hard Hats for Little Heads bicycle helmet giveaway during Bike Month in May.

It's Time to Decide About Medicare

March 17 is the deadline to decide whether to change your Medicare participation status. Signing a participation agreement means you agree to accept assignment for all covered services that you provide to Medicare patients in 2010.

Medicaid Fee Cut Coming

Cuts in payments to physicians who treat patients on Medicaid and in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) appear likely as state leaders grapple with potential multi-billion-dollar state budget deficits this year and next.

TMA Leadership College Opens in October

TMA will launch the new TMA Leadership College at the 2010 TMA Fall Conference, Oct. 14-17.

TMA Indexes Medicare DME Newsletter

Did you miss the last Medicare DME Newsletter? Don't worry. TMA has you covered.

CMS Pushes Back PECOS Deadline

Medicare has delayed the deadline for physicians to enroll in the Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) until Jan. 3, 2011.

Law Requires Electronic Death Registration

A 2007 state law requires that all cause-of-death information and medical certifications to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) be submitted electronically through the state's online death registration system, the Texas Electronic Registrar (TER).

Mar 6, 2010

I Love My Medicare Patients

TMA Council on Legislation member Dawn Buckingham, MD, talks about the Medicare Meltdown and what it means to her and her patients.

Mar 3, 2010

Senate Finally Delays Medicare Cuts, Again

Late Tuesday night, the U.S. Senate voted to freeze physicians' Medicare payment rates once again, forestalling a 21.2-percent cut that otherwise would have affected all claims for services provided in March. The freeze extends 2009 rates until April 1.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said it removed the 10-day hold on Medicare claims it instituted on March 1.

"This 28-day freeze is worthless if Congress doesn't spend the next 28 days devising and passing a permanent new Medicare payment formula," said Texas Medical Association President William H. Fleming III, MD. "We need a rational Medicare physician payment system that automatically keeps up with the cost of running a practice and is backed by a fair, stable funding formula."

Dr. Fleming urged TMA and alliance members to use the TMA Grassroots Action Center to send that message to Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison and the Texas delegation in the House of Representatives.

"We need Washington to understand that they're playing politics with our patients' lives," Dr. Fleming said.

Medicare “Band-Aid” Is Worthless to Patients

Statement by William H. Fleming III, MD, TMA president, in regard to the temporary freeze the U.S. Senate put on the 21.2-percent cut to physicians' Medicare payments. The payment cut was postponed for 28 days, until April 1, 2010.

“This 28-day freeze is worthless if Congress doesn’t spend the next 28 days devising and passing a permanent new Medicare payment formula. We need a rational Medicare physician payment system that automatically keeps up with the cost of running a practice and is backed by a fair, stable funding formula.

“We need Washington to understand that they’re playing politics with our patients’ lives.”

Check out physicians’ reactions to how the Medicare Meltdown is affecting their patients and their practices.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing nearly 45,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component

Mar 1, 2010

CMS Orders 10-Day Hold on Medicare Claims

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on Friday, Feb. 26, that it "is working with Congress, health care providers, and the beneficiary community to avoid disruption in the delivery of health care services and payment of claims for physicians, non-physician practitioners, and other providers of services paid under the Medicare physician fee schedule."