Group Focusing on Opioids, Scope of Practice While Building Relationships
Officials of the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA), the state's largest professional organization for doctors, say it will intentionally limit its list of issues it plans to support while meeting with members of the new-look state legislature while the lawmakers are deliberating in Nashville.
Dr. Matthew L. Mancini, TMA President for 2018-2019, said as the 111th Tennessee General Assembly convened on Capitol Hill, the most important item on the organization's to-do list was perhaps "building relationships."
TMA is considered one of the most influential healthcare advocacy groups on Capitol Hill.
"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 matters," said Dr. Mancini, a Knoxville surgeon,
'The General Assembly first created TMA for this purpose," Dr. Mancini continued. "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."
TMA's 2019 legislative priorities are improving opioid prescribing laws, defending scope of practice and pursuing a reasonable compromise on payment issues. Taking a closer look at each one:
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.
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.
TMA's biggest advocacy event of the year, Day on the Hill, is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26. Last March more than 300 physicians descended upon Nashville's Cordell Hull Building 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.
Those interested in learning more about more about TMA's legislative advocacy at tnmed.org/legislative and follow TMA @tnmed and @tnmedonthehill.