Nov 30, 2012

Free Tips to Help Your Practice Run Right

TMA publishes TMA Practice E-Tips , a popular free e-newsletter twice a month to offer four brief, practical tips for managing a medical practice in Texas. Each issue gives you hands-on, use-it-now advice on coding, billing, payment, HIPAA compliance, office policies and procedures, practice marketing, and much more, along with useful links for more information.

Subscribe, for free, today.

Nov 29, 2012

How Can You Stop ODs?

Prescriptive drug abuse is at epidemic levels in the United States, and opioids are the drug patients use most often in unintentional deadly overdoses. How can physicians help stop these preventable deaths?

Learn what you can do and earn CME credit from TMA.

Nov 20, 2012

AMA gears up for lame duck session and fiscal cliff negotiations

The American Medical Association began laying the groundwork for negotiations in the lame duck session to deal with the “fiscal cliff” in 2010 by urging the Simpson-Bowles Commission to include a permanent repeal of the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula in its budget deficit proposal. Last month, the AMA led an effort to outline principles for transition to a new Medicare payment system that was endorsed by 48 states and over 60 national specialty societies. Congress has heard repeatedly from the AMA and other physician groups on the need for action to avert the 27 percent SGR cut on Jan. 1 and the additional 2-percent sequestration cut that will occur as a result of a previous failure to reach agreement on a deficit reduction package.

While there is a great of deal of uncertainty regarding how Congress and President Obama will address the “fiscal cliff,” the AMA is poised to deal with a range of scenarios. Many observers anticipate a two-step process in which an initial deficit reduction package is enacted during the lame duck session that prevents SGR and sequestration cuts. This would include or be accompanied by a framework for a larger deficit reduction package to be finalized next year.

At the onset of the process, the AMA’s objectives are:

  • Avert looming SGR and sequestration cuts
  • Permanent repeal of the SGR and transition to new Medicare payment system that rewards physicians for high-quality care and savings across the delivery system
  • Medical liability reforms to reduce the cost of defense medicine
  • Preserve investments in graduate medical education, research, public health and prevention

The AMA will engage state and national medical societies, as well as individual patients and physicians, throughout the negotiations through grassroots alerts, various AMA communications channels and Federation conference calls.

Nov 19, 2012

TMA Opposes New Chiropractic Board Rules

The Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners (TBCE) is at it again. The board has lost numerous court battles with physicians over its attempts to expand chiropractors' scope of practice by passing a rule. This time, TBCE proposed a new definition of biomechanics, one of the keys to that profession’s statutorily prescribed scope.

Read all about it.

Nov 18, 2012

Soon, there will be more little Texans riding bicycles because some not-for-profits organizations give bikes to underprivileged children as a holiday gift. Help ensure they have a safe experience when riding their new bike by giving the gift of health: a helmet.

Find out how you can help make this happen.

Nov 17, 2012

Submit Immunization Data Electronically

Physicians can now use their electronic health record (EHR) to submit adult and pediatric immunization data to ImmTrac, Texas' immunization registry operated by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Learn how

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Nov 16, 2012

Change Coming to Your Medicare Claims Monday

Novitas Solutions takes over administration of physicians' Medicare claims in Texas and several surrounding states from TrailBlazer Health Enterprises on Nov. 19. It began handling Medicare claims for hospitals and skilled nursing facilities on Oct. 29.

Are you ready? Read more.

A Call-to-Action: Young Physicians, Join Your County and State Medical Society


By Tracey Haas, DO, MPH

Well, the election is over – and whether you’re red, blue or green, there’s a lot of work to do, and we physicians need to collaborate on the road ahead. This is true in the medical world now more than ever.

The upcoming interim meeting of the American Medical Association will certainly address some of these concerns – but whose voices are the delegates listening to?

There is no doubt that membership has been down over the past few years. It is unclear whether or not this is just a trend or due to a split in philosophies around health care reform and other hot issues. Regardless of the political climate and differing views, physicians must be at the table to be heard. Yes, many young physicians are joining large groups or choosing to be employed rather than own their practice, but this should not mean their choices default to those of their employers. Progressive change in medicine cannot come at the expense of passivity in our new doctors. More than ever our medical societies must step up to embrace this gradual shift in healthcare delivery models, while empowering the physician to speak up about the practice of medicine.

The future of medicine relies on participation. If physicians want to be heard, they must join and must speak. Medical societies have been around for over a century to bring the medical community together to do just that. With new membership from recent grads and the seasoned practitioners – medical societies must stay strong – and continue to help doctors stay focused on the issues and become inspired to speak up, stand up and get fired up! The change hasn’t happened – it is coming.

Let’s continue to be the voices of change for our profession, for our patients and for the reform we hope to see by participating at local, state and national levels.

Dr. Haas is a family physician in Austin and medical director of DocbookMd.

Nov 13, 2012

AMA House: Save Medicare, Help Employed Physicians, Stop ICD-10

HONOLULU -- The American Medical Association House of Delegates wrapped up its 2012 interim meeting this morning after taking significant action to address some of medicine's most pressing problems.

Dr. Lockhart

Delegates completed a multi-year plan by adopting a framework to transition Medicare to a defined contribution program that would allow beneficiaries to either buy coverage of their choice from a wide variety of plans or stay in the traditional Medicare system. Tyler anesthesiologist Asa Lockhart, MD, said change is needed because the current system is not working and not sustainable.

"We have coverage without access, which I view to be the most cruel situation of all," Dr. Lockhart said. "Defined contribution would allow of multitude of options and expand choice, but it would do it under the current federal Medicare funding levels."

Jason Sharp, MD, a newly hired interventional radiologist in Dallas, said he expects the new AMA Principles for Physician Employment to be very helpful for young doctors who, like him, are coming out of residency and fellowship with no training on the business side of medicine. "It will help us know what the game is, what the rules are ... how do I compare and contrast the offers I get, Dr. Sharp said.

Dr. Sharp

AMA Board of Trustees member Joe Annis, MD, an Austin anesthesiologist, said the principles cover such aspects of the employee-employer relationship as conflicts of interest, advocacy, contracting, hospital-medical staff relations, peer review and performance evaluations, and payment agreement. "The guidelines reinforce that patients’ welfare must take priority in any situation where the interests of physicians and employers conflict," Dr. Annis said.

After winning a one-year delay in the mandatory implementation of the ICD-10 coding system, AMA delegates voted to "vigorously advocate" with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to make the change permanent. Austin colon and rectal surgeon David Fleeger, MD, past chair of the TMA Council on Practice Management Services, said he is concerned about the time, cost, and "an inefficiency that goes on forever" if physicians are forced to use ICD-10 for coding and billing.

Dr. Fleeger

"It's the private practice doctor in small groups that's going to have the biggest problem implementing ICD-10," he said.

Dr. Fleeger said medicine will find itself up against hospitals, health plans, and technology vendors that have invested much time and money into ICD-10. "Those are opponents, and they are people with deep pockets," he said.

Nov 10, 2012

Quite Distinguished Indeed

HONOLULU -- Congratulations to former TMA President Mark J. Kubala, MD, winner of the 2012 American Medical Association Distinguished Service Award.

AMA President Jeremy Lazarus, MD,
(l) presents the Distinguished Service
Award to Mark Kubala, MD

Dr. Kubala, a neurosurgeon from Beaumont, has been active in organized medicine since his days as a medical student in 1968. He has been a member of the AMA House of Delegates, where he received the award Saturday, since 1994.

The Distinguished Service Award, established in 1938, is presented for "meritorious service in the science and art of medicine."

Dr. Kubala is not only a great member of organized medicine, an excellent surgeon, and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, he is also a very fine individual. He is well-known for mentoring young physicians, and countless Texans speak of his kindness and generosity. This award is very well deserved.

Nov 5, 2012

Follow Tuesday's Election Returns here

Thanks to our friends at The Texas Tribune, we're tracking results from all the races with TEXPAC-endorsed candidates here. Check back throughout the night Tuesday for the latest numbers.

Nov 2, 2012

Healthy Vision 2020 - The Videos



Healthy Vision 2020, is the Texas Medical Association's strategic roadmap for state and federal advocacy initiatives for the remainder of the decade.

Says TMA President Michael E. Speer, MD, "As this report explains, we desperately need an unobstructed, clear view of the future of health care in Texas. Our growing population, beset by expensive acute and chronic diseases, doesn't have enough physicians to care for them now, let alone in the future. The legislature's view of the massive state Medicaid budget rarely extends beyond what it takes to balance this year's budget, let alone the next. Many physicians wish they could just shut their eyes to the deluge of new laws, rules, and regulations that keeps coming between them and their patients. But we cannot, even though the only thing certain is the coming uncertainty."

These short videos feature physicians' personal stories that illustrate the challenges they face ... and the solutions they face ... in caring for Texans.

For details, see the TMA website.

Nov 1, 2012

Medicare Payments Upon Transition to Novitas

Q. What will happen to any outstanding balances TrailBlazer owes physician — and vice versa — at the time of the cutover (Nov. 19, 2012) from TrailBlazer Health Enterprises to Novitas Solutions as the Medicare payment contractor for Texas?

A. Novitas will assume responsibility for these balances at the time of cutover and predicts no disruptions in payments.

Find out all the details.