Legislative Issues & Updates
A central part of TMA’s advocacy mission is state-level government relations, and the advocacy team works with state lawmakers and other organizations to achieve members’ legislative priorities as defined by the Legislative Committee, Board of Trustees and House of Delegates. In 2019, TMA was named the most influential advocacy organization on Capitol Hill. Our lobbyists review hundreds of bills each year to identify measures that promote or threaten good healthcare policies, and then organize member physicians and organizations to help carry TMA’s support or opposition.
2022 Legislative PrioritiesTo download a PDF of our 2022 Legislative Priorities, click here.
SCOPE OF PRACTICE
TMA, as part of the Coalition for Collaborative Care (CCC), is leading efforts to preserve Tennessee physicians’ ability to supervise patient care and oppose unsafe scope of practice expansion by mid-level healthcare providers. TMA joined this coalition of medical specialty societies and other healthcare organizations to promote physician-led team-based healthcare delivery teams as the best model for patient safety and quality of care. Because of our leadership, advanced practice nurses and physician assistants have not succeeded in changing state laws to achieve independent practice in Tennessee, and TMA remains steadfast in advocating for policies that improve and strengthen interprofessional relationships, not weaken them.
TMA leads a coalition of physician specialty organizations in protecting physicians’ ability to negotiate a fair reimbursement when providing out of network care. Our bill would only require patients to pay according to their in-network responsibility if they receive a surprise medical bill, and would allow out-of-network physicians to pursue fair payment from health insurance companies through an independent arbitration process if the initial payment was unsatisfactory. The bill is based on a successful model used in Georgia. It would incentivize health insurance companies to offer fair, in-network initial payments to out-of-network hospital-based physicians.
TMA led a 2020 effort during a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to ensure telehealth services are reimbursed at the same rates as in-office visits. The bill passed, but has a sunset date of April 1, 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the extraordinary utility of telehealth in increasing access to care. Patients expect providers to offer these services in the future, but without payment parity it will not be economically feasible. Medical providers cannot be expected to cover the cost of providing telehealth at a reduced rate of pay. This year, TMA, alongside our partners, will advocate for the removal of the sunset. We will also seek allowances for audio-only telehealth in circumstances where patients are unable to access audio-video technology.
COVID-19 SPECIAL SESSION CLEANUP
TMA will be working on a cleanup bill with the Tennessee General Assembly to make it clear that physician practices enrolled in Medicare and/or TennCare are exempt from the law that was recently passed prohibiting businesses from mandating verification of a COVID-19 vaccine or face covering. Vaccine mandates imposed at the federal level have the potential to place medical providers in a conflicting position between state and federal laws. Although TMA worked to have health providers exempted from the final version of legislation, the language provided to the sponsors was changed during an early-morning hours debate and drafted incorrectly. The intent, however, is clear: medical practices are exempt. TMA will work to amend the statute to more accurately reflect the exemption.
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