Tennessee Medical Association Announces 2018 Legislative Agenda

Physician Group Focuses On Payment Reforms, Scope Of Practice, Public Health Issues

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Tennessee Medical Association, the state’s largest professional organization for doctors and a healthcare lobbying group on Capitol Hill, has revealed its 2018 legislative agenda. 

Here is their agenda:

TennCare Episodes of Care – Doctors have grown increasingly frustrated by the state’s inconsistent, inaccurate and ineffective episodes of care payment model. Decisions about the program are continually made without physician agreement and in many cases with physician opposition. TMA has long advocated for improvements but the state has not addressed fundamental flaws in the design and implementation of the program. Learn more about TMA’s position and related advocacy work at tnmed.org/episodes. 

Doctor of Medical Science (or successor name) – TMA is opposed to legislation that, as introduced in 2017, may create a new academic degree for physician assistants and a pathway to giving PAs independent practice. TMA is working with bill sponsors to ensure that PAs who earn the degree will continue practicing in a team-based care model with appropriate physician leadership, and to try to remove the term “doctor” from the bill to avoid patient confusion in a clinical setting. 

Balance Billing – TMA wants to protect physicians’ rights to obtain fair compensation for treating a patient when the physician is out of the patient’s health plan network while ensuring that the patient responsibility is expected and fair. TMA will continue to seek a solution to “surprise medical bills” that is reasonable to all parties, especially physicians and patients. TMA opposes any effort that gives health insurance companies even more undue leverage to force providers to accept unfair contractual terms and proliferates the trend of narrow networks. 

Maintenance of Certification – For the second year in a row, TMA will have legislation filed to give physicians relief from the costly, burdensome and in many cases valueless requirement of Maintenance of Certification testing. TMA will work to try to prohibit hospitals and health insurance companies from requiring MOC for physician credentialing or network participation, or at least give physicians options to the ABMS Board monopolies. 

Indoor Tanning – TMA will encourage Tennessee to join 28 other states that have some type of prohibition on dangerous indoor tanning for minors. TMA and other groups in a coalition of advocates, including dermatology and pediatric organizations, will educate lawmakers about the preventable dangers of indoor tanning, such as skin cancer. 

"There are a few big priority items on TMA’s agenda again this year, but it doesn’t begin to tell the whole story of our efforts on Capitol Hill," said Nita W. Shumaker, MD, TMA president for 2017-2018. "Our lobbyists review hundreds of bills every session and work every day to make sure our state lawmakers consider input from physicians and our patients on a wide range of important healthcare issues. We have a responsibility to our members as the largest unified voice for doctors in Tennessee and we use that platform to relentlessly advocate for good public policy." 

TMA claimed an early legislative win for 2018 when it announced in November 2017 that a three-year push to dismantle and replace the state’s medical liability system had ended. A Georgia-based group called Patients for Fair Compensation had since 2015 lobbied the Tennessee General Assembly to shift physician liability cases from the civil court system to a government-run administrative system. Doctors raised concerns about verifying proponents’ claims that their plan would save the state money, and preserving medical liability insurance in the event a patient compensation system did not work. The opposing groups could not resolve issues, and Patients for Fair Compensation assured TMA that it does not plan to introduce any related bills in the 2018 legislative session. 

TMA’s biggest advocacy event of the year, Day on the Hill, is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6. More than 300 physicians attended the event in 2017 to meet with lawmakers, attend committee hearings, and advocate for their profession and patients. The General Assembly’s move into its new home in the Cordell Hull Building adds a new element to the annual event, especially for TMA physician members who lobbied for years at Legislative Plaza. 

The association also offers a variety of advocacy programs through its grassroots network, including Doctor of the Day on Capitol Hill during the legislative session. 

Follow TMA’s legislative progress at tnmed.org/legislative or on twitter @tnmed and @tnmedonthehill.

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