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Urge Your Legislators to Support Assembly Bill 2164

Proposed Bill 2164 will remove the requirement for physicians to disclose if they received mental health treatment to apply for a medical license. The licensure application for physicians and surgeons might unintentionally dissuade doctors from seeking mental health support. By sending a message to your legislators. Your voice will ensure that physicians receive the necessary support to excel and deliver optimal care to their patients.

 

President's Page: Mental Health is a Top Priority

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I wanted to use this month’s column to highlight some ACCMA activities that support the mental health of our members and the patients we serve. 

ACCMA continues to offer support for physician members through sponsored psychotherapy sessions and confidential peer support from fellow physicians. Our Wellbeing Committee  members have curated a list of experienced mental health professionals who have worked with physicians before, and ACCMA will cover the costs of up to four sessions for any East Bay physician seeking psychotherapy from these clinicians. For those who don’t want psychotherapy, but would value connecting with a supportive peer, you can also contact the ACCMA to be confidentially connected to a member of our Wellbeing Committee who can offer confidential peer support over the phone. This includes support for physicians undergoing litigation or Medical Board investigations. 

Another important component of mental health is feeling connected to community. ACCMA offers many opportunities for physicians to engage with one another and build community. We have started to offer more social events where physicians and their families can connect with colleagues around shared interests and activities. Some of these events are organized by the ACCMA staff while others are organized directly by ACCMA members themselves with financial support from ACCMA. You can find a list of upcoming events on the last page of the Bulletin or by visiting www.accma.org.

On the advocacy side, we are focused on a number of mental health related priorities. We are supporting AB 2164 to remove the requirement for physicians to disclose if they received mental health treatment when applying for a medical license. This may unintentionally dissuade doctors from getting the help they need and stigmatizes physicians who seek mental health services. ACCMA also sent a letter recently to the Department of Health Care Services urging changes to the new system for Medi-Cal youth and children to access mental health services, calling for the use of a clinically validated screening tool and for allowing physicians to directly refer patients rather than going through county health departments for additional screening. We also recently sent a letter to the FDA and DEA asking them to take immediate action to address the pervasive
drug shortages for ADHD medications.

I hope these ACCMA resources and activities are meaningful to you, and that you are able to use Mental Health Awareness Month to reflect on optimizing your own mental health and the mental health of your patients.
 

Change Healthcare Cyberattack

On Feb. 21, 2024, Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of the UnitedHealth Group (UHG) Optum unit, experienced a cyber-attack that resulted in nationwide outages affecting payors, physician practices and other providers and pharmacies. The outage has caused interruption of numerous administrative and billing processes, including electronic claims submission, provider payments, pharmacies, prior authorizations, payor chart retrieval, etc. Below are several resources that aid you in understanding the impact on your practice and next steps:

Environmental Sustainability Attracts the Brightest Young Minds in Medicine

My Green Doctor is a free money-saving membership benefit for ACCMA physician members. Members use the “Meeting-by-Meeting Guide” to learn how to adopt environmental sustainability in their practice, save resources, and help create healthier communities. The program adds just five minutes to each regular office staff meeting, making small changes at each meeting that over time really add up. Everyone in your practice can register as Partner Society members at www.MyGreenDoctor.org or at www.MyGreenDoctor.es (si, en Espanol). Use the discount code MGDACCMA to save money instantly, $1000s in the first year, and get full free access to My Green Doctor. Register today and watch the “Three Minute Video” that explains how easy it is to add My Green Doctor to your next agenda.

My Green DoctorAttracting the best young professionals to your practice is essential for your long term success. It is not enough anymore simply to offer a high salary and a reasonable work schedule. This month, the ACCMA’s My Green Doctor explains this in a three-minute blog, “I’ll Be Joining an Environmentally Friendly Practice.”

These days, talented, community-minded doctors, nurses, and office specialists look at the value commitments of the practices they join. This is where having an environmental sustainability program can provide the competitive advantage that you need in a crowded recruitment market.

President's Page: Fighting for Equity and Access

On January 11th, the ACCMA kicked off 2024 with a joint orientation meeting for the ACCMA Council (which is the ACCMA’s board of directors) and the ACCMA (District IX) Delegation to the CMA House of Delegates. Several new leaders are joining the Council and Delegation this year, and we used this opportunity to welcome them and discuss our priorities for the coming year.

We also had the privilege of welcoming the CMA President, Dr. Tanya W. Spirtos, as our guest speakers, who shared that CMA’s overarching priority for the coming year is achieving health equity and greater access to care. Central to that effort is a ballot initiative CMA, ACCMA and other healthcare organizations are putting on the 2024 ballot.

Thanks to CMA and ACCMA advocacy, a new law was enacted this year that utilizes a Managed Care Organization (MCO) Tax to leverage $19.4 billion in Federal funds between April 2023 and December 2026 to substantial increase Medi-Cal reimbursement rates. In 2024, rates have increased for primary care, obstetrics, and non-specialty behavioral health. The 2024 ballot initiative will keep this momentum going to make this investment in Medi-Cal provider rates permanent. The fight for increased Medi-Cal funding will ensure that patients most in need receive access to the quality care they deserve.

Other priorities for 2024 include stopping Medicare cuts, implementing long-term Medicare payment reforms, strengthening the physician workforce, protecting against the corporatization of medicine, addressing healthcare affordability, reducing administrative burdens on physicians, and responding to egregious scope expansion efforts. These thorny issues require a sustained effort and remain at the forefront of our focus.

The most important step you can take in support of these efforts is to continue your ACCMA and CMA membership. Your membership dues ensure that we have the resources necessary to wage these battles on behalf of you and your patients. For those who want to get more directly involved, there are many ways you can help. Please keep a close eye on your inbox for advocacy alerts throughout the year that require urgent action. Taking the time to send an email or make a phone call to your elected representatives goes a long way. Your voice and personal anecdotes provide valuable insight to legislators as they make decisions that impact your patients and the practice of medicine. We will also be hosting local meetings with elected officials, attending CMA Legislative Day in Sacramento, interviewing candidates who are running for office, and more. To get more involved, visit www.accma.org/getinvolved.
           

CMA's 50th Legislative Advocacy Day

On April 10th, ACCMA members went to the State Capitol and attended the California Medical Association’s 50th Annual Legislative Day. Our physicians had the opportunity to meet with East Bay Legislators to discuss health care related issues. Some of those issues were:

Preserve the Managed Care Organization (MCO) Budget It is imperative that the Legislature upholds the MCO tax agreement which is reflected in the Governor’s January proposal. In the budget last year they passed to invest billions of dollars in the Medi-Cal system. It included: 

  • Make the Medi-Cal provider rate increases that were included in the 2023-2024 state budget deal permanent, fulfilling the state’s promise to physicians. 
  • Expand access to health care Medi-Cal patients, resulting in reduced emergency room usage, and shortened wait times for all Californians. 
  • Increases funding for mental health programs that care for children and Medi-Cal patients.

SB 516 (Skinner) Prior Authorization This bill would be the vehicle we use to pass prior authorization reform. It was held in Assembly Appropriations Committee last year and all of our East Bay Legislators voted in favor of this bill. The bill would remove unnecessary prior authorizations, streamline and modernize the process for submitting and appealing a prior authorization request, provide transparency and data on health plan actions, and require a physician of the same of similar specialty to conduct appeals of a prior authorization denial. 

 

SB 1120 (Becker) Health Care Coverage: Utilization ReviewThis bill would require that a licensed physician or health care provider have final approval of any utilization review decisions made or assisted by AI decision-making tools or algorithms used by a health care insurer and we ask for a support/sponsor of this bill. This bill would ensure physician oversight when Artificial Intelligence is used for utilization review. 

 

If you have any questions about the above health care related issues that were discussed at Legislative Day, please contact Mr. David Lopez at dlopez@accma.org.

 

Make the MCO Tax Permanent

The Coalition to Protect Access to Care is supporting a proposed ballot measure to permanently use dedicated tax dollars to support Medi-Cal providers. These tax dollars will bring more federal funds back to California and improve access to critical health care services. Visit accesstohealthcare.com to support the ballot measure today!

This initiative will:

  • Increase funding for mental health programs that care for children and Medi-Cal patients
  • Expand access to health care for Medi-Cal patients, which will result in less use of emergency rooms and free up wait times for all Californians
  • Allow California to manufacture its own insulin and other prescription drugs for Californians at much lower prices that exist currently

 

Vot-ER Allows Physicians to Encourage Voter Participation

Physicians can encourage voter participation by using Vot-ER, which provides nonpartisan tools for integrating civic engagement into your practice. Visit vot-ER.org to learn more.

Vot-ER badges: Patients scan the badge's QR code to access a non-partisan, self-service voter platform where they can register, request a mail-in ballot, and learn about upcoming elections. Visit vot-er.org to get your free badge today!

Vot-ER's Community Civic Engagement Program (CCEP): A small grant program that expands non-partisan civic engagement through voter registration and turnout initiatives in community health centers. The CCEP program offers small grants from $5,000-$10,000 to community health centers who have an interest in non-partisan voter engagement and work in Black, Brown, Native and low-income communities. Applications are open from February 6, 2024 to March 11, 2024.

Civic Health Month: Vot-ER's nationwide celebration held each August to showcase the strengthening relationship between health care, healthy communities, and civic participation.

Contact Congress to Reverse the Medicare Cut

Congress failed to include a fix to Medicare payment cuts in its most recent temporary federal government funding package. The funding package passed on January 18th and provides funding for the federal government through March. If this latest cut is left in place, physician Medicare payments will have been reduced by almost 10% in four years. This is simply unsustainable for our nation's physicians and the patients they serve. Recently introduced bipartisan legislation presents another opportunity to stop these cuts when the funding package expires in March. H.R. 6383 would stop the 3.37% Medicare payment cut that took effect on Jan. 1, and H.R. 2474 would provide an annual inflation update. The fight continues to stabilize physician practices and help restore the major goal of the Medicare program: providing timely, quality medical care to our patients.

CONTACT CONGRESS NOW!