The Tennessee Medical Association has released its 2019 legislative agenda as the 111th Tennessee General Assembly convenes this week. TMA has an intentionally limited list of topics it plans to push in the new-look state legislature.
“With a third of the men and women in the General Assembly being brand new this session – along with a new governor – we expect to devote a lot of time building relationships and serving as a resource on important healthcare issues. The General Assembly first created TMA for this purpose. More than 180 years later, we are still the most effective voice representing physicians’ interests, promoting public policies and stopping or improving laws, rules and regulations that may threaten patient safety or quality of care. That core mission has not changed and will not change, regardless of the specific issues,” said Dr. Matthew L. Mancini, a Knoxville surgeon and TMA president for 2018-2019.
TMA’s 2019 legislative priorities are improving opioid prescribing laws, defending scope of practice and pursuing a reasonable compromise on payment issues.
• BALANCE BILLING: As lawmakers continue to look for ways to address the issue of patients receiving “surprise medical bills,” TMA wants to protect physicians’ rights to get fairly compensated for services they provide out of a health plan network while remaining fair to patients who are caught between their health plan and their physician. TMA has led previous efforts to find a reasonable solution and will continue to defend physicians’ rights if legislation is filed by other stakeholders this session.
• OPIOID EPIDEMIC: While TMA was able to make significant improvements to Gov. Haslam’s “TN Together” legislation in 2018, some of the unintended consequences doctors initially feared the new law would create are manifesting across the state. New restrictions on prescribing and dispensing are no doubt reducing overall initial supply, but are also unreasonably obstructing some patients from accessing legitimate, effective pain management. TMA will work with the legislature to amend the law to address specific issues raised by doctors and patients. TMA has developed a number of proprietary resources to help educate doctors and other prescribers on Tennessee’s opioid prescribing laws at tnmed.org/opioids.
• SCOPE OF PRACTICE: TMA is on alert to continue defending against any proposals that would threaten patient safety and quality of care by removing physician oversight for nurses, physician assistants or any other midlevel providers. TMA for years has led doctors’ opposition to nurse independent practice in Tennessee and in 2016 reached an agreement with the Tennessee Nurses Association that included a three-year moratorium on all independent practice bills. The moratorium expires at the end of the 2019 session, but doctors expect the debate to resurface in 2019, particularly around expanding access to care in rural areas. TMA will continue promoting physician-led, team-based care as the safest, most efficient and effective healthcare delivery model in Tennessee. tnmed.org/teambasedcare
• MAT PARITY: TMA will ask the General Assembly to consider a resolution encouraging health insurance companies to include Medication-Assisted Treatment therapies in patients’ health plans and reimburse specialists who provide MAT services at rates comparable to other treatments. TMA has long advocated for more accessible and well-funded treatment options for patients struggling with substance abuse. Using medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies is a necessary strategy in the ongoing fight against Tennessee’s opioid abuse epidemic.
TMA is a nonprofit advocacy organization, serving more than 9,600 members with legislative, legal/regulatory and insurance advocacy, physician leadership training and other programs. The association also offers a variety of ways for doctors to connect with their elected officials through its grassroots network, including Doctor of the Day on Capitol Hill during the legislative session.
TMA’s biggest advocacy event of the year, Day on the Hill, is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26. More than 300 physicians descended upon Nashville’s Cordell Hull Building in 2018 for the annual event and TMA expects another large crowd this year as doctors from around the state visit Nashville to meet with lawmakers, attend committee hearings and advocate for their profession and patients.