May 31, 2012

TMA to Congress: No Sneak Torts

TMA, the Texas Medical Liability Trust, and other liability insurers are asking Congress to make sure the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) does not create new theories of liability or alter the rules governing medical professional liability lawsuits. They wrote the chair and ranking minority member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that they support HR 816, The Provider Shield Act, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo).

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May 25, 2012

Medicare Enrollment Now Has 60-Day Lead Time

Good news: Physicians now can submit Medicare enrollment applications 30 days sooner than before. You may submit CMS-855 enrollment applications and Internet-based Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) applications 60 days prior to the effective date (previously, it was 30 days prior).

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TMA Staff Averts Medicaid Claims Nightmare

When the claims clearinghouse Availity inadvertently cut its connection to the Texas Medicaid & Healthcare Partnership (TMHP) last month, more than 30,000 claims totaling $23 million filed by physicians and other healthcare professionals in just four days were in danger of disappearing. And the number of claims was increasing by the hour.

But Availity knew who to call -- Genevieve Davis, director of TMA's Payment Advocacy Department. She notified TMA Director of Government Affairs Helen Kent Davis, who immediately found someone at TMHP who could help resolve the issue.

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May 24, 2012

U.S. Physician Compensation Among Lowest

The United States may have a reputation for having one of the most expensive health care systems in the world, but it apparently is not because of physician payments. According to a study released in May by Jackson Healthcare, physician compensation in the United States is among the lowest of the major western nations.

May 21, 2012

What Happens in Dallas ... Affects All of Texas

In case you missed, forgot, or just want to catch up on the highlights of TexMed 2012 in Dallas last week, here's a short recap. (We''ll have full coverage in the July 2012 issue of Texas Medicine. For photos, quips, and comments, check out the #TMAmtg Twitter stream.)

Incoming TMA President Michael E. Speer, MD, delivers
his installation address.
(Image courtesy of Susan Rudd Bailey, MD)

Houston Pair Take Reins as New Leaders of TMA and Alliance

Neonatologist Michael Speer, MD, and longtime political activist Linda Adkins – both of Houston – are the new presidents of TMA and the TMA Alliance. Dr. Speer was installed as TMA’s 147th president and Mrs. Adkins as the 95th TMA Alliance president at TexMed 2012 in Dallas. Dr. Speer told the TMA House of Delegates that his goal is to increase TMA membership from nearly 46,000 to 50,000 by the end of his one-year term. “Because the more physician boots on the ground and the more physician voices in the air when discussing medical issues with mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and … by the way … legislators, the more we are heard, and respected,” he said. “Go out and multiply.”

Delegates Establish Legislative Priorities for 2013

Wading through a lengthy handbook of reports and resolutions, the House of Delegates set Smoke-Free Texas, more residency slots, and restored funding for the Texas Physician Education Loan Repayment Program and the Statewide Preceptorship Program as priorities for the 2013 legislative session. Among the other highlights, the house:

  • Asked for restoration of funding for the state family planning program and Texas Women’s Health Program;
  • After extensive debate, voted to study whether general hospitals in urban counties should have a physician on-site to respond to emergencies 24 hours per day, seven days per week;
  • Said only licensed physicians or their appropriately supervised physician assistants or advanced practice nurses should conduct athletics-participation physicals for Texas school children;
  • Set policy to make Medicare’s Value-Based Purchasing program fair and financially sound;
  • Adopted a new plan to help physicians who belong to inactive county medical societies;
  • Supported efforts to prevent elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks of gestation;
  • Said TMA should work to require allied health professionals to clearly display proper identification;
  • Called for new regulations against, and education about, the dangers of distracted driving;
  • Said the state should use only scientifically accurate information in the brochure physicians must give to all patients requesting an abortion, and lawmakers should reduce the loss-of-license penalty for physicians who do not comply with the new abortion-sonogram law; and
  • Adopted strong new policy to protect clinical training opportunities for Texas medical students.
Medical students from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine
in El Paso with Gilberto Handal, MD, at TMA Border Health
Caucus meeting. (Photo courtesy David Palafox, MD)

Dr. Brotherton Leads Pack of Newly Elected TMA Leaders

In one of the day’s few uncontested elections, the House of Delegates unanimously chose Fort Worth orthopedic surgeon Steve Brotherton, MD, as TMA president-elect. Dr. Brotherton, who has served as speaker and vice speaker of the house for seven years, will be installed as TMA president at TexMed 2013 in San Antonio. In other election results, delegates:

Abilene’s Virginia Boyd Connally, MD, Earns for Distinguished Service Award

At age 99, Virginia Connally, MD, has certainly kept her sense of humor. Taking the stage to receive TMA’s 2012 Distinguished Service Award after Abilene ophthalmologist Paul Thames, MD, read a lengthy history of her accomplishment, Dr. Connally said, “If I could hear what he said, I’d be blushing.” The trailblazer was the first female physician in Abilene, practicing as an eye, ear, nose, and throat doctor for 42 years. Other awards bestowed at TexMed 2012 include:

  • Former TMA President Josie Williams, MD, won the Young Physician Section’s Young at Heart award;
  • Waco family physician Jackson Griggs, MD, received the J. T. “Lamar” McNew, MD, award from the Resident and Fellow Section;
  • The Medical Student Section (MSS) gave its C. Frank Webber, MD, award to Steve Robinson, MD, a family physician from Lubbock;
  • Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center won the MSS Chapter of the Year Award; and
  • MSS Student of the Year was Alexandra Iacob, from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

Is Our Vision Clear Enough for You?

We distributed the first draft of TMA’s Healthy Vision 2020, the strategic roadmap for our state and federal advocacy initiatives for the remainder of the decade, at TexMed 2012. But this is the first draft, and we are already at work making it better. We want your ideas, suggestions, and improvements. A blog has been established at to allow members of the TMA official family to add comments and suggestions, which will be incorporated into later versions of the document. Please read Healthy Vision 2020 and give us your feedback.

Six Science Teachers Win Butler Awards for Excellence

Teachers who inspire students’ love of science got some love of their own at TexMed 2012. Six of them received TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching, which include cash prizes for them and their schools. “These dedicated educators help create the physicians of tomorrow by inspiring students of today with the possibilities available in the field of science,” Dr. Speer said as he presented the awards. First-place winners are Paula Bagwell of Belmar Elementary School in Amarillo, Elizabeth Klammer of St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, and Matthew Wells of Cypress Lakes High School in Katy. Second-place winners are Jo Williams of Spicewood Elementary in Austin, Elizabeth Freeman of Westwood Junior High in Dallas, and Kimberly Beck of Seymour High School in Seymour.

Nine Minority Medical Students Receive Scholarships

Now in its 13th year, the TMA the Minority Scholarship Program has awarded 74 scholarships totaling $370,000 since 1999. That includes the nine most-recent winners, announced at TexMed 2012. The scholarship encourages minority students to enter medicine by lightening the financial burden of medical school.
As proud as we are of the winners, I want to use this space to thank the individuals and organizations who underwrote this year’s scholarships: Wendell Daniels, MD, of Longview; Betty and Mark Kubala, MD, of Beaumont; Alan and Sarah Losinger of Dallas; Cecilia and Tim Norwood, MD, of Dallas; Susan M. Pike, MD, and Harry T. Papaconstantinou, MD, of Georgetown; Irvin Robinson, MD, of Fort Worth; Charli and Jim Rohack, MD, of Bryan; Dana and Jamie Ronderos, MD, of Frisco; Cathy Scholl, MD, of Austin; the Bell, Dallas, El Paso, Hidalgo-Starr, McLennan, Midland, Nueces, Tarrant, and Travis county medical societies; Harris County Medical Society/Houston Academy of Medicine; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas; HEB; and the Khushalani Foundation of Humble. Thank you all very much.

May 14, 2012

TMA Wants ICD-10 Canned

TMA is glad the federal government postponed adoption of the ICD-10 coding system until 2014 but believes it should skip ICD-10 for a more up to date coding system. If officials don't do that, then they should delay ICD-10 even longer. That was the message TMA delivered in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on May 11.

May 3, 2012

Medical Emergency Continues for Dual Eligibles

A state budget cut to patients who rely on Medicare and Medicaid for their care is devastating physician practices and putting patient care in jeopardy. Texas Medical Association (TMA) President C. Bruce Malone, MD, on Wednesday told Rio Grande Valley physicians that TMA continues to work on the problem.

“We hear your urgent stories and feel your and your patients’ pain,” said Dr. Malone during his second meeting with Valley area physicians about the medical emergency the cut is creating. He added that the cut is harming access to care across Texas.

Cameron-Willacy County
Medical Society members
meet to discuss the
dual-eligibles policy

Physicians are reeling from a 20-percent state budget cut for “dual-eligible” patients, which went into effect Jan. 1. Dual-eligible patients qualify for Medicare and are eligible for Medicaid assistance.

In a the video above, Alvin family physician Dale L. Messer, MD, says the cut is “squeezing” his medical practice of more than 40 years. He estimates about half of the people he sees are dual-eligible patients. More than 300 of his patients reside in nursing homes.

With so many dual-eligible patients, he worries that eventually the cut will leave them without health care.

“I haven’t been paid for six months. We’ve taken my personal savings out because we were short [to pay his staff and office overhead],” said Dr. Messer. “I’m not saying it’s all due to that Medicaid cut, but it’s true.” He also has taken out loans to make payroll.

“I feel sorry for the older people,” he adds. “It isn’t just me that’s being affected, it’s all these older people — my patients.”

Javier Saenz, MD, from La Joya is struggling to keep his practice open to patients as well. In addition to the 20-percent budget cut, his and other doctors’ payments have been delayed because the state and federal government experienced computer glitches the first three months of the year. Dr. Saenz had to borrow money twice this year to keep his office open. TMA has heard similar stories from physicians from Lubbock to Nacogdoches, El Paso to Brownsville, and in Houston.

“We hope lawmakers take action to mitigate the cut so physicians can continue to care for Texas’ elderly — and often sickest — patients,” said Dr. Malone. Earlier this week, Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs told lawmakers that “unintended consequences” have arisen from the cuts. He plans to propose a solution to state budget officials by the end of May.

Dr. Malone hopes so. “Relief for these physicians and patients cannot happen too soon,” he said.