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TCU Medical Student and TMA/TCMS Member Anand Singh Elected to AMA Student Board

By Prescotte Stokes III

Read the original article here.

The American Medical Association-Medical Student Section (AMA-MSS) Region 3 executive board recently elected Anand Singh, a first-year medical student at TCU School of Medicine to serve as the Co-Advocacy Chair.

The AMA-MSS Region 3 includes medical schools in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

“My job is to learn about what different health care policies are being passed in these different states,” Singh said. “And spread that news and raise awareness among medical students because as we all know these policies impact everyone from students to physicians and patients.”

Singh will oversee the Region 3 advocacy committee and lead advocacy initiatives to engage region chapters.

He will also work with the Advocacy Subcommittee of the Committee on Legislation and Advocacy (COLA) to help our region engage with events like National Advocacy Week (NAW) and the Medical Student Advocacy Conference (MAC). He will also support the Membership Chair and Secretary in reaching out to local chapters to highlight advocacy endeavors and provide advocacy updates in AMA-MSS Region 3 monthly newsletters.

“Policy writing is very niche and not every physician has to do that but the way this connects with the medical school is how they teach us to be an advocate for your patients,” Singh said. “And growing that idea on a larger scale its advocating for your population. Not only talking to physicians you’re talking to legislative members, congress members and kind of impact a larger audience that’s a really great opportunity as future physicians.”

The Medical Student Section (MSS) aims to be a voice for medical students’ across the AMA to help improve medical education and advocating for the future of medicine.

Join Forum TOMORROW Addressing the Impact of Political Polarization on Healthcare

Tomorrow, Feb. 19, 2022, the Tarrant County Academy of Medicine Ethics Consortium, in partnership with the Tarrant County Medical Society, will host their annual Healthcare in a Civil Society symposium.  This year’s program, “Polarization and the Erosion of Public Trust in Healthcare,” is an interactive event that takes an in-depth look at the impact of political polarization on healthcare.

“Our nation is beset by radical polarization,” says Stuart Pickell, MD, TCMS president-elect and chair of the consortium. “Historically, healthcare policy has been one topic on which we have been able to find common ground. What happened to transform it from something broadly bipartisan to incredibly divisive? This event will explore how we got to this point and begin to chart a path forward.”

The goal is to engage leaders of all perspectives in a civil conversation centered on the healthcare issues that are important to the Tarrant County community without the rhetoric that often undermines these conversations. This hybrid in-person/Zoom event will be held at the UNT Health Science Center from 8:30am to 1:00pm and provides continuing education credit for multiple healthcare disciplines.

While this symposium highlights discourse between community leaders, anyone who is interested in this critical topic is welcomed and encouraged to join the conversation. Those who are interested in participating can register here.

The event includes a breakout session allowing participants to explore the issues more deeply in small groups. A number of topics will be addressed, including:

  • How the media can influence public opinion and promote polarization
  • The impact of polarization on the public trust and public health
  • How polarization creates conflict (e.g., in how people refer to science as an absolute) and how to manage it
  • How people in health care professions can mitigate the effects of polarization within their spheres of influence when talking with patients

The event will be moderated by former congressman and current Sid Richardson Foundation President Pete Geren, who will be joined by panelists Bob Lanier, MD; Erin Carlson, DrPH, MPH; Tracey Rockett, PhD; and TCMS Secretary-Treasurer Triwanna Fisher-Wickoff, MD. The keynote speaker will be public affairs consultant and presidential historian Kasey S. Pipes, and the event will also feature Dr. Pickell and UNT System Chancellor Michael Williams, DO, MD, MBA.

The Tarrant County Medical Society is a professional organization that has been dedicated to the improvement of the art and science of medicine for the residents of Tarrant County since 1903. TCMS serves over 4,000 physicians, residents, medical students, and Alliance members, and is a component society of the Texas Medical Association.

Tarrant County Academy of Medicine was incorporated as a 501(c) (3) organization in 1953 to work in conjunction with the Tarrant County Medical Society. TCAM was created to enhance medical education, support community wellness, and preserve Tarrant County’s rich medical history.

CDC Approves Moderna Adult COVID-19 Vaccine

Moderna’s adult COVID-19 vaccine has now earned full approval following recommendation’s from both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) immunization panel.

On Feb. 4, after CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices unanimously voted to recommend Moderna’s two-shot series, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, quickly endorsed that recommendation.

“If you have been waiting for approval before getting vaccinated, now is the time to join the nearly 212 million Americans who have already completed their primary series,” Dr. Walensky said in an agency statement. “CDC continues to recommend that people remain up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, including getting a booster shot when eligible.”

The adult version of the Moderna vaccine is for people aged 18 and older. Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine, which was granted full approval in August 2021, is for use in people 16 and older.

Help State Fight Antimicrobial Resistance: Apply to Regional Committees

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Physicians all over Texas can apply for the chance to help stop the spread of multidrug-resistant organisms as part of an Antimicrobial Stewardship Regional Advisory Committee (ASRAC) for one of Texas’ public health regions.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is now accepting applications for new members of the regional advisory committees, established by the passage of a Texas Medical Association-supported law in 2019, House Bill 1848 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth). The committees will attempt “to address antimicrobial stewardship in long-term care facilities and to improve antimicrobial stewardship through collaborative action.”

TMA considers the establishment of the committees a valuable opportunity for members with relevant expertise to take a leadership role on the topic in their communities.

Each committee will consist of physicians, directors of nursing or an “equivalent consultant with long-term care facilities,” public health officials knowledgeable about antibiotic stewardship, and “other interested parties.” Members must attend regular committee meetings (virtual or in-person), which will be held at least once every 12 months, as well as subcommittee activities, if required. Members also may need to travel to designated locations within the public health region for those meetings and activities.

The deadline for applying is Feb. 15 at 5 pm CT. Applicants will need to list contact information of a reference who can speak to your interest in and/or involvement with collaborative action designed to improve antimicrobial stewardship. Submission of a letter of recommendation also is required.

For more information, visit the DSHS Antimicrobial Stewardship page or email the agency.

Travel expenses arising from attending ASRAC meetings or other activities will not be reimbursed.

HHS Distributing $2 Billion to Physicians and Other Health Care Providers Impacted by COVID-19

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is making more than $2 billion in Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 General Distribution payments to more than 7,600 physicians and other healthcare providers across the country this week. You can find more information here.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for health care providers and the communities they serve,” noted HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “The Provider Relief Fund remains an important tool in helping to sustain the critical health care services communities need and support the health care workforce that is delivering on the frontlines every day.”

Phase 4 payments have an increased focus on equity, including reimbursing a higher percentage of losses for smaller clinics. HHS is also incorporating “bonus” payments for those who serve Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicare beneficiaries. Approximately 82 percent of all Phase 4 applications have now been processed.

View a state-by-state breakdown of all Phase 4 payments disbursed to date.

View a state-by-state breakdown of all ARP Rural payments disbursed to date.

As individual providers agree to the terms and conditions of Phase 4 payments, it will be reflected on the public dataset.

TMA Sues Feds Over Unfair Rule for Surprise Billing Law

Rule ignores statutory text and congressional intent, shrinks access to care for patients

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Tyler, Texas, after the Biden administration failed to follow clear direction from Congress about how to implement the dispute resolution process set forth in the No SurprisesAct, legislation that was passed in 2020 to protect patients from surprise medical bills.

“TMA supports the patient protection intent of the No Surprises Act,” TMA President E. Linda Villarreal, MD, said. “However, TMA’s lawsuit challenges one component of the administration’s rule that ignores congressional intent and unfairly gives health plans the upper hand in establishing payment rates when a patient receives care from an out-of-network physician, oftentimes in an emergency.”

Congress intended to create a fair and unbiased process to resolve billing disputes between health insurance companies and physicians by ensuring that all relevant factors must be considered, with each given the weight deemed appropriate by the arbitrator. In contrast, the administration’s short-sighted approach will make it harder for patients to access care by driving down reimbursement rates and encouraging insurance companies to continue narrowing their networks. It will be difficult for small physician groups to keep caring for patients.

“The lawsuit filed yesterday ensures that the protections for patients against balance bills will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, while seeking to stop the imminent harm to physicians and hospitals created by an unfair arbitration process,” Dr. Villarreal said.

The recently released rule rewrites the statute by requiring the arbitrator in the independent dispute resolution process to presume that the qualifying payment amount (QPA), set by health insurance companies for patient cost-sharing purposes, is “the appropriate out-of-network rate.” This creates a bias that prioritizes offers closest to the QPA, rather than allowing arbitrators to exercise their discretion to weigh all relevant factors and select the reimbursement rate that most accurately reflects fair market reimbursement and individual circumstances.

The TMA lawsuit asks the court to strike this section of the rule and instead restore the fair, balanced dispute resolution process that Congress created. The lawsuit also alleges a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires a formal notice and comment period in advance of finalizing such a rule. The agencies failed to solicit and incorporate comments from stakeholders for this crucial aspect of the law.

“We wholeheartedly agree with U.S. Reps. Richard Neal’s (D-Mass.) and Kevin Brady’s (R-Texas) concern that the rule tips the scale in favor of insurance companies and will leave patients vulnerable,” Dr. Villarreal said. Representative Neal is chair of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, and Representative Brady is the past chair of the committee and currently ranking Republican member.

“We are disappointed the Biden administration ignored congressional intent and essentially set up the arbitration system to operate like a casino, with health insurers playing the role of the house,” Dr. Villarreal said. “Everyone knows the house always wins. With the current rule, patients, physicians, and our country lose.”

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 55,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.

Important COVID-19 Updates for North Texas Physicians

The North Texas Medical Society Coalition is sharing two important and timely COVID-19 updates as you help navigate care for your patients. 

First, the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) has opened a second COVID-19 antibody infusion center in North Texas. The new facility, located at Collin College in McKinney, will be in addition to the existing center in Ft. Worth. Click here to access the referral form and here for location details for the McKinney location. Click here for the referral form and here for location details for the Ft. Worth location.

Second, regional hospital emergency departments are requesting that well and mildly ill patients requiring a COVID-19 test (e.g. students, teachers and others who are seeking to return to school/work, or, individuals with mild symptoms), be directed to offsite COVID testing facilities. Emergency departments are being inundated with both sick patients and COVID-19 testing requests and have asked for the assistance of referring physicians to direct test-only patients to offsite locations. To access an offsite testing location, please click here. Please advise patients to contact the testing center prior to arriving to inquire about any limitations (e.g. no pediatrics, hours, appointments needed, etc.), and other important details. Hospitals have advised that patients who present at the emergency department for testing only may be charged an emergency department visit fee. While the COVID test itself is free, a facility visit fee may apply.

Thank you for all you are doing to serve your patients and our community. You are appreciated!

The NTMSC represents more than 11,500 physicians in the communities of Collin-Fannin, Dallas, Denton, Grayson, and Tarrant County. Founded in 2020, the NTMSC works with community healthcare partners, including public health departments, hospitals, and business leaders, to advise on medical recommendations to serve the health care needs of the residents of North Texas.

North Central Texas COVID-19 Regional Infusion Center Opens in Fort Worth

Today, a COVID-19 Regional Infusion Center offering the monoclonal antibody treatment Regeneron – COV (Casirivimab plus Imdevimab) opened in Fort Worth. According to the Infusion Center Info Sheet, “[t]his site will accept patient referrals from healthcare providers across TSAs C, D, and E to help administer COVID therapeutics quickly and safely with the goal of preventing patients from needing hospitalization.”

Referrals are required for treatment. To see if your patients qualifies, check the North Central Texas COVID-19 Regional Infusion Info Sheet. If they are eligible, you can complete the referral by filling out this form and sending in in by fax (210-208-5295) or email (InfusionReferral@bcfs.net).

We Might be Done With COVID-19, But It Is Not Done With Us

A message to the community from Tarrant County physicians

The current surge in COVID-19 cases in the Tarrant County area is having serious consequences that could impact patient outcomes.

  • Hospitals are currently at, or over, their staffing capacity with very few open ICU beds available across Tarrant County.
  • Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are straining to meet the overwhelming needs in the hospitals.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations aren’t just a problem of the unvaccinated, they also strain the resources that are needed to treat other medical conditions and emergencies.

To avoid this, we urge the community to recognize this current crisis and take the simple and familiar steps that are proven to be effective against the spread of COVID-19.

  • We must continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, and be cautious about how we gather.
  • Because the Delta variant is the most contagious variant yet and has the potential for spread by both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, we encourage everyone to wear a mask in public while indoors and outdoors when unable to socially distance.
  • In addition, those who are not fully vaccinated should limit gathering with those outside of their household, especially while indoors.

Vaccination is the safest and most effective way by which we can protect ourselves from this deadly virus and get back to normal.

  • With over 350 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine given in the U.S., evidence of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines is overwhelming.
  • Being fully vaccinated results in an 8-fold reduction of having symptomatic COVID-19, a 25-fold reduction in being hospitalized and a 25-fold reduction in death from COVID-19. We strongly encourage every eligible person to get vaccinated – immediately.

As a community, we are at a tipping point. Let’s move in the right direction.

  • Each one of us can do our part to stop the spread, break the cycle, and defeat this pandemic once and for all. The choice is ours.

The Tarrant County Medical Society is a membership organization for the physicians serving the Tarrant County community. TCMS has been dedicated to the improvement of the art and science of medicine since 1903.