Friday, January 11, 2013

TMA's 2013 Legislative Agenda: Caring for Patients in a Time of Change

“As lawmakers reconvene in Austin, we must work together to put patients before politics,” said Michael E. Speer, MD, president of the Texas Medical Association (TMA). He made the statement as he and TMA laid out the association’s legislative agenda for the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature, which began this week.

Dr. Speer urged legislators, physicians, hospital systems, insurance companies, and community leaders to create a more sustainable and efficient health care system. Texans should stop pushing health care to the most expensive settings — hospital emergency departments and in-patient care, he said, and should build physician-led health care teams to meet the diverse needs of Texas patients. The right way to save money is to ensure the right professional provides the right care, at the right place, and at the right time.

The problems
Texas’ population is expected to boom from 25 million to almost 45 million by 2040. That’s more people but also a greater need for health care services for more and more obese Texans with chronic diseases and the generally sicker elderly residents, all of whom need better-coordinated care. Texas also needs more physicians and other health care professionals working in all parts of the state, especially in rural and border Texas.

The solution: TMA’s Healthy Vision 2020
TMA’s legislative agenda, outlined below, urges state leaders to follow the recommendations of TMA’s Healthy Vision 2020 — to help us all care for patients in this time of change.
  • Ensure an adequate health care workforce
    Texas needs to build physician-led health care teams that can safely meet the diverse needs of the state’s population. Texas needs to support both critical parts of medical education and training to help cultivate future generations of Texas physicians, ensuring stable access to health care for all Texans.
  • Protect the trusted patient-physician relationship
    We must protect the unique patient-physician relationship. We must protect independent medical judgment for physicians in all employment relationships; ensure that corporate entities cannot direct medical decisions to the detriment of patient care; protect physicians’ due process rights and prohibit retaliation for patient advocacy in all employment relationships; and defend physicians’ ability to have honest, candid conversations with their patients and provide medically appropriate care.
  • Provide appropriate state funding for physician services
    Physicians are critical to Texas’ health care system if it is to be cost-effective. State leaders must realize that cutting physicians’ payments is not an effective tool for controlling health care costs, and often exacerbates the cost of care.
  • Protect patient safety: Ensure the right professional is providing the right care permitted by his or her education, training, and skills
    Texas law clearly defines the practice of medicine and the educational qualifications necessary to diagnose, independently prescribe, and direct patient care — and to be held accountable for that care. Now, and in the future, physicians and other professionals will practice in teams to provide comprehensive patient care, and these patient-focused teams must be physician-led to ensure quality, continuity, and efficiency in care.
  • Reduce red tape and regulations
    We need legislative solutions to cut through the red tape, regulations, and other unproductive elements that do nothing to improve quality and everything to interfere with doctors’ ability to practice medicine efficiently and effectively.
  • Protect and promote a fair civil justice system
    Texas has taken no more important step to strengthen our health care delivery system than passing the 2003 medical liability reforms, so we must protect them.
  • Invest in prevention
    We must invest in evidence-based wellness and public health programs that complement physician efforts to keep women and babies healthy, and reduce obesity, tobacco use, chronic disease, and cancer.
  • Establish fair and transparent insurance markets for patients, employers, and physicians
    Legislation is needed to regulate insurance companies that attempt to apply the health care rates an insurer and physician agreed upon to other payers — without the physician’s knowledge or consent.

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