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February 2014

MICRA talking points to use with your patients

Richard Thorp, MD
[Dr. Thorp, a Paradise internist, is president of the California Medical Association. The following article is adapted from a letter he recently sent to California physicians.]

By now, you and your fellow California physicians likely understand the full measure of what’s at stake in the fight to protect the state’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). We now know that the trial attorneys’ proposed ballot language has received approval from the Secretary of State’s Office, and that MICRA opponents have begun collecting signatures in an attempt to place that language on the November 2014 ballot. We also know that these well-funded opponents have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign to undo MICRA.

In other words, the threat against MICRA is more serious now than it has ever been.

There’s no doubt that you and your colleagues understand the potentially catastrophic results that would come from MICRA’S cap being lifted to roughly fourfold; yet unfortunately physicians’ understanding of the issue will not be enough to stop this initiative.

To win this fight, voters--our patients, those we interact with every day in our practices--must understand that protecting MICRA goes hand-in-hand with protecting access to quality health care in California.

To that end, a set of talking points appears below, to ensure that any conversation regarding MICRA, no matter how brief, will ultimately be of value to both the physician and the patient.

Introduce the talking points with, “Right now, there’s a good deal of misinformation being used to support an initiative that will potentially close doctors’ office and make health care more expensive for all Californians. California trial lawyers are pushing an initiative that would allow lawyers to collect more money from medical malpractice suits, but they’re running it alongside a host of other provisions that makes it look like the initiative’s focus is patient safety. The physician community is always looking for ways to improve patient safety and reduce the number of medical errors--but that isn’t what this ballot measure is about. This measure is about making more money for trial lawyers.”

  • This measure will raise costs for millions of health consumers and taxpayers. More lawsuits mean higher health care costs for patients and providers--everyone will pay more.
  • This measure is about making more money for trial lawyers. This measure is being funded by trial lawyers and their allies so they can make more money suing health care professionals--period.
  • This measure will reduce access to health care services. This measure will lead to reduced access to our health care professionals--and fewer options for affordable, quality health care--especially in rural and underserved communities.
  • Californians do not want to weaken MICRA. The public supports MICRA. According to a recent poll conducted by Patients Allied for Patient Protection, nearly two-thirds of voters support the law.

Again, I cannot stress enough how important the next few months will be to the future of our profession. We will win this fight, but we cannot do so alone. Thank you in advance for standing with me in defense of MICRA.

[For the latest MICRA news, visit www.cmanet.org/micra]


CMA develops simple tool to ID physician participation status in exchange plans

On Jan. 1, Covered California began providing health coverage to more than 500,000 patients statewide. With that figure expected to grow by the end of the 2014 open enrollment period, it is critical that physicians and their staff have a clear understanding of their exchange plan participation status so they can communicate this information to patients before scheduling. It’s equally as important that practices understand the reimbursement rates and other terms associated with the plans with which they are contracted.

Even if you did not intentionally contract with any exchange plans, the California Medical Association (CMA) urges you to check your participation status. It’s very possible that you may have been unknowingly opted into an exchange plan network due to the way that major insurance plans have structured their provider agreements.

If you've attempted to look up your exchange plan participation status on the Covered California website, you know that it's not a straightforward process. Because it is critical that physicians know what plans they are contracted with, CMA has created a quick and easy tool to look up your exchange plan participation status in just a few clicks.

The tool, available to members only, requires simply your first and last name and middle initial. Then it will tell you which plans list you as a contracting physician (as of September 2013, the most recent data released by Covered California). To access the tool, visit www.cmanet.org/exchange-lookup.

Please note: You will be required to login with a member account. If you have not already activated your web account, visit www.cmanet.org/activate. If you need assistance activating your account, contact CMA's member service center at (800) 786-4262 or memberservice@cmanet.org.

For more information on Covered California, visit CMA’s exchange resource center at www.cmanet.org/exchange. Physician members and their staff also have free access to CMA’s practice management experts at 888-401-5911 or economicservices@cmanet.org .


AAssembly candidate Dr. Jim Wood to speak at SCMA on Feb. 25

Physicians in the 2nd Assembly District are invited to a meet-and-greet with Assembly candidate Dr. Jim Wood from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25. The event will be held at SCMA, 2901 Cleveland Ave., Suite 202, Santa Rosa. Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served.

Dr. Wood, a family dentist, is mayor of Healdsburg. He has served on the Healdsburg City Council since 2006 and also chairs the board of directors of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency.

The 2nd Assembly District includes the northern half of Santa Rosa and northern and western Sonoma County, except for Sebastopol. It also encompasses Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. The district is currently represented by Wes Chesbro, an Arcata Democrat.

There is no charge for the event, but RSVPs are required. To RSVP, contact Rachel Pandolfi at 707-525-4375 or rachel@scma.org. For more details, see the attached flyer.


Sonoma County seeking new Health Officer

Sonoma County has begun accepting applications for a new Health Officer to replace Dr. Lynn Silver-Chalfin, who resigned in December to work for the Public Health Institute in Oakland. Dr. Karen Holbrook is currently serving as Interim Health Officer.

The position pays $13,888 to $16,879 per month. A complete job description and application procedures can be found in the Classifieds section at the end of this newsletter. Applications are due on Feb. 28.


Housing needed for families attending motor-disability camp this summer

Boost Camp, which provides conductive education for children with motor disabilities, needs housing for out-of-town parents and children attending the camp from June 28 to August 2. The camp, sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay, teaches children motor skills and trains parents and their families to work hands-on with the children. The results of the camp are as individual as the children participating: taking several steps without a walker, using canes instead of a wheelchair, being able to catch a ball for the first time.

Ideal accommodations would be guest houses or vacation homes at ground level. They should include a queen or double-size bed, full bathroom, kitchen with refrigerator and stove, and washer and dryer. Other types of housing could work as well.

To offer housing, contact Katie Lightfoot, Boost Camp director, at klightfoot@ucpnb.org  or 707-569-4412. For more information, see the attached flyer.


Sonoma Medicine wins first place in publications competition

Sonoma Medicine magazine took top honors in a recent publications competition sponsored by the Northern California chapters of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the world’s largest organization of technical writers and designers. The first-place win qualifies Sonoma Medicine for the international competition, to be held later this spring.

Competition judges wrote, “This is a very professional publication, with high quality materials and articles. Covers are engaging and set the tone for the theme of the issue. … The layout is consistent, attractive and effective. … The writing is easy to understand--a pleasing and educational read for any audience.”

Physicians interested in submitting article proposals for the magazine should contact the editor, Steve Osborn, at sosborn@scma.org or 707-525-0101. All article proposals are reviewed by the SCMA Editorial Board.


Benefit change: Free SCMA legal services switching to CMA

SCMA will be switching its free legal services from local attorney Larry McLaughlin to the CMA Center for Legal Affairs effective March 1. Mr. McLaughlin will continue to offer legal referrals to physicians and office staff until Sept. 1. He can be reached at his current number: 707-823-2134. The forwarding on his old number (579-4523) expires on Feb.1.

The CMA Center for Legal Affairs provides members with information and resources about laws and regulations that impact the practice of medicine. While CMA staff cannot provide physicians with individual legal advice, their health law information specialists, with the support of CMA legal counsel, will help you find legal information and resources on a multitude of health-law related issues, ranging from OSHA requirements to the retention of medical records. This service is free to CMA members (not available to nonmembers). For assistance, contact CMA’s member help center at 800-786-4262 or legalinfo@cmanet.org.

CMA’s health law library is the most comprehensive health law and medical practice resource for California physicians. The library contains over 4,500 pages of up-to-date information on a variety of subjects of everyday importance to practicing physicians. The library includes the California Physician's Legal Handbook, as well as more specialized information on peer review, payor contracting and other topics.

ON-CALL documents from the health law library are free to CMA members ($2 per page for nonmembers) and are available online in the resource library or by calling CMA’s member help center at 800-786-4262.


Hillary Clinton headlines 2014 Health Care Leadership Academy

Former Secretary of State and potential presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the keynote speaker at the annual Western Health Care Leadership Academy in San Diego on April 11-13. Top thinkers from around the country will share strategies and resources for accelerating the shift to a more integrated, high performing, and sustainable health care system.

The conference will examine the most significant challenges facing health care today and present proven models and innovative approaches to transform your organization’s care delivery and business practices. Topics will include leadership development, ACA implementation, practice management and the ICD-10 transition.

To register, contact Rachel Pandolfi at 707-525-4375 or rachel@scma.org.


Legislative Leadership Conference set for April 22 in Sacramento

All SCMA members are invited to CMA’s 40th annual Legislative Leadership Conference on Tuesday, April 22, at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento. This free event begins with morning speeches by political leaders, followed by afternoon sessions with local legislators. Several hundred physicians from around the state are expected to attend.

For more information, visit www.cmanet.org/events  or contact Cynthia Melody at 707-525-4375 orcmelody@scma.org.

Top stories from CMA Alert

Here are the top stories from the latest CMA Alert, the California Medical Association’s biweekly email newsletter. For a free subscription, visit www.cmanet.org/cma-alert.

  •  Senate pro tem considering MICRA legislation
  • Federal budget spares most health programs
  • Budget instructs CMS to reform RAC audits that have been troubling physicians
  • HHS to release Medicare physician payment data
  • CMS to conduct ICD-10 testing in March

Top stories from CMA Alert

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PEOPLE

The January 2014 issue of Family Medicine, a national journal, includes a highly favorable review of “The Santa Rosa Reader,” a book by Dr. Rick Flinders published by SCMA in 2012. The reviewer, Baltimore physician Dr. Alida Gertz, writes, “Reading this book, I was inspired to be a better doctor. Clearly an excellent teacher who can simplify complex concepts and ideas, Dr Flinders espouses the importance of lifelong learning and dedicates several chapters to detailing his own enduring pursuit of knowledge, including one on returning to medical school.” All proceeds from the book benefit the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency. To order, visit www.scma.org or any online bookseller.


RESOURCES

An evening conference on opioid prescribing will be held at the Redwood Food Bank in Santa Rosa on Feb. 12. The conference, which focuses on tapering opioid medications, runs from 6 to 8 p.m. and offer 1.5 hours of CME credit. The cost, including dinner and CME credits, is $30. To register, visit www.eventbrite.com.

The third annual Childhood Obesity Conference will be held at the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco on Saturday, Feb. 22. The featured speaker is acclaimed pediatrician Dr. Robert Lustig, who will discuss his research on sugar consumption as the underlying cause of obesity. Five other speakers are scheduled as well, along with breakout sessions, breakfast and lunch, and a networking reception. Cost is $80. To register, visit www.slowfoodsanfrancisco.com.

The 21st annual HIV/AIDS Review is set for Saturday, April 5, at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa. Intended for physicians, mid-levels and pharmacists who provide care to people with HIV/AIDS, the review features sessions on advances in HIV testing, hepatitis C treatment and new HIV medications. Cost is $45, which includes breakfast, lunch and 5 hours of CME. For the conference flyer, click here. To register, click here or call 707-303-8904.

Nonprofit health organizations in Sonoma County are encouraged to apply for community grants from the Pacific Foundation for Medical Care. The application deadline is April 2. The grants, generally in the $10,000 range, are awarded twice a year by the nonprofit foundation to support local projects that enhance health services. For application materials, visit www.pfmc.org or contact Kathy Pass at 707-525-4281 or kpass@rhs.org.

The following CMA webinars are scheduled for February. Webinars, which are typically worth one CEU credit, begin at 12:15 p.m. and run until 1:15 or later. To register, visit www.cmanet.org. Seminars are free for CMA members and their staff; cost for nonmembers is $99 per person.

  •  Managing Medicare in 2014: New Rules and Tools (Feb. 5)
  • Retiring, Selling or Buying a Practice (Feb. 19)
  • Personal Belief Exemptions to Required Immunizations (Feb. 24)
  • Fraud and Abuse: Dangers and Defenses (Feb. 26)

CLASSIFIEDS

  • Salary info: $13,888 to $16,879/month
  • Description: Sonoma County is seeking a skilled and dynamic physician who is passionate about community health improvement as its next Health Officer. Recognized for its commitment to innovation and collaboration, the County of Sonoma strives to be the healthiest county in California. The Health Officer plays a key leadership role in bringing this vision to reality. The Health Officer is a County Officer appointed by the Board of Supervisors and reports to the Director of Health Services for administrative direction.
  • Qualifications: Education & Experience: Graduation from an accredited medical school with a Doctor of Medicine degree and a minimum of three years of responsible work in a public health service that included both clinical and managerial experience. Training in Family Practice, Pediatrics or Internal Medicine is desirable. Additionally, possession of a Master’s Degree in Public Health from an accredited school must be achieved within three years of appointment. License/Certification: Possession of a valid Physician’s and Surgeon’s Certificate issued by the State of California.
  •  How to apply: Visit www.yourpath2sonomacounty.org to view the complete position details and to apply online, or call Human Resources at 707-565-2331. EOE.
  • Final filing date: Friday, Feb. 28, 2014.

APPLICANTS

SCMA members can place free classified ads in News Briefs or Sonoma Medicine. Cost for nonmember physicians and the general public is $1 per word. To place a classified ad, contact Linda McLaughlin at Linda@scma.org or 707-525-4359.

APPLICANTS
Daniel Ahn, DO, Ophthalmology*, 181 Andrieux St., Sonoma 95476, New York Med Coll 2008

William McClure, MD, Plastic Surgery*, 596 First St. East, Sonoma 95476, UC San Diego 1978

Julie Philp, MD, Dermatology*, Pediatrics*, 990 Sonoma Ave. #2, Sonoma 95476, Stanford Univ 2005

* = board certified; italics = special medical interest


ABOUT SCMA

The Sonoma County Medical Association, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit association, supports local physicians and their efforts to enhance the health of the community. Founded in 1858, SCMA is affiliated with the California Medical Association and the American Medical Association.

© 2014 SCMA, 2901 Cleveland Ave. #202, Santa Rosa, CA 95403