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VOL. 130 | NO. 35 | Friday, February 20, 2015

Tennessee Medical Association Unveils Legislative Agenda

By Andy Meek

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Ahead of its annual Day on the Hill next month and fresh off the legislative defeat of a Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, the state’s largest professional association for doctors has unveiled its wish list for the 2015 legislative session.

The list includes a mix of priorities that ranges from TennCare payment reform to improving access to quality healthcare. One of those is a payer accountability bill, which the group also championed in 2014.

The association, comprised of more than 8,000 member statewide, also counts among the top priorities in its legislative package a bill that would reduce health insurance companies’ ability to change reimbursement terms in the middle of a contract.

The association also plans to introduce what it calls the Tennessee Healthcare Improvement Act of 2015, designed to support a vision for “more efficient and effective team-base healthcare delivery” in the state.


And about its payer accountability bill, Dr. Ron Kirkland, who chairs the association’s legislative committee, said the group wants to follow up on work done last year around “stability and predictability for medical practices.”

He adds the group is planning to deploy “a lot of white coats” to Capitol Hill March 3.

“In no other industry are contracts so lopsided toward one party to essentially allow them to change payment at any time, for any reason,” Kirkland said. “We want to level the playing field, especially for smaller physician groups and solo practitioners, and prohibit insurance companies from using their typical ‘take it or leave it’ approach.”

The TennCare payment reform component of the association’s legislative agenda is related to the association pushing for such reform after the state got its first grant in 2013 for the Tennessee Healthcare Innovation Initiative.

About that initiative, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in 2014 that over the next five years, the initiative would shift a majority of health care spending, both public and private, away from fee for service to three outcomes-based payment strategies.

The association’s other legislative focus areas include telemedicine, with a coalition of entities including the TMA advocating for improved access to telemedicine services. The group points to a fresh version of rules along these lines from the Board of Medical Examiners as reflective of its advocacy efforts over the past year.

Addiction treatment is another hot topic, with the association’s Addiction Treatment Act of 2015 seeking to remove barriers to identifying anyone who needs treatment and ensuring they have access to available treatment options.

And expect insurance coverage for the state’s working poor to remain even more of a hot topic.

In recent weeks, a legislative committee killed a plan by Haslam to use more than $1 billion annually in Affordable Care Act funding to offer an expanded Medicaid alternative to uninsured working people.

The association says it supported Haslam’s plan, dubbed Insure Tennessee, and will “continue to serve as a resource for legislators as the debate continues around how to best provide insurance coverage for the state’s working poor.”

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