Welcome to the Bell County Medical Society website.
William Walton, MD
Bell County Medical Society
As part of my mission as your new president, I intend to improve communications within our Society. This is my first attempt at a quarterly column that I will be writing. So here’s my 25 cents worth.
I moved to Bell County only 18 months ago to join Scott and White Family Medicine. My good friend Arden Aylor, then president of BCMS invited me to the “Board” meetings. I volunteered to help in any way I can; little did I know he would crown me president! (I am sorry to say that no one else stepped forward). Arden did know that I was the immediate Past President of the Dallas County Medical Society so his decision on the surface was not totally demented.
I must say that there was a huge culture shock for me, moving from DCMS with a fully paid staff of 21 persons and a budget of $2M and $5M more for the Dallas Project Access for indigent patients and dues of $350/year. Here in Bell County we pay $50 per year and we have 1 part time staffer. It actually is a good shock because there is no pressure!
Challenges and Solutions:
We in medicine are faced with huge challenges from changes that threaten our patients and are profession. There are unique problems and solutions at local, state and federal levels.
Grass grows from it’s roots. The dominant native grass of Bell County was Big Bluestem. It grew to 6-8 feet. A man would have to be on horseback to see over it in late spring. As tall and beautiful as it was, the buffalo and wildfire would take it back to the ground. But it’s roots reached into the deep prairie soils down to 12 feet!
So as our profession is trampled by buffalo politicians and burned to the ground by trial lawyers, it is our grassroots that with replenish us. We need more engagement at our local events and meetings. We need young physicians to feel welcome and needed in our organization. Please participate and ask our young docs to join and serve.
We are attempting to modernize BCMS. We just got a computer so that our staff employee, Robin Foutz, could keep our records and most importantly link to TMA’s Imis membership program. We have a website: bellcms.com. We have an email address: email@example.com. We hope to ramp up use of these tools. This column will appear on the website. I hope to launch a Survey Monkey survey of our members. Should we have meetings at a non-Scott and White site? Should we meet after hours? What are our member needs?
We are in for a bumpy ride with the upcoming Texas State legislative session this spring. With the $ 20-25 billion budget shortfall, much will be cut. Taxes are a bad word but cuts and fees are not. Much of the State Budget is related to health care expenditures. Deep cuts in Medicaid and CHIP are being discussed. Some radical politicians are even proposing that Texas drop out of Medicaid, forfeiting about $16 billion in Federal monies each year. Such an irrational move would spell disaster for our patients, hospitals and our profession. Our ER’s would be overwhelmed with indigent patients and the costs would be born by local governments, hospitals and all health care providers.
Every 2 years, we again have to fight off the threat of weakened malpractice reform from the Trial Lawyers. They have a large building right beside the Capitol building and host legislators to a free lunch on their rooftop patio each legislative session day. The average trial lawyer I have been told contributes over $17,000 a year to political action funding. The average Texas doctor contributes $32 to our TexPac.
We must lobby and educate our legislators. Please all consider attending “First Tuesdays”. This is a coordinated lobbying day each month run by TMA. It really works! Our legislators I have found are both very ignorant of health issues and very willing to listen to the experts, we physicians. And give to TexPac.
Health Care Reform is likely here to stay. We need to educate ourselves about details and implications of the bill and the ensuing regulations. As more persons gain insurance, we must adjust to the increased demand for our services, especially in primary care. We need to adapt to the new reality. Organized medicine is a great source of information and resources to help us adapt.
The federal deficit is the gorilla in the corner. The President’s Deficit Reduction Commission recently put out its 59 page report. Much was dedicated to health care funding cuts. Some of the cuts would deeply harm medicine. 2 items stood out when I read the report. Graduate Medical Education funding to hospitals would be drastically cut. We have a shortage of residency spots in Texas; our physician shortage will worsen if funds are cut. Another insidious recommendation is that Medicare patients would have to pay “First Dollar” of their bill before Medicare would reimburse any providers. This means that if your patient goes into the ER for a concussion and gets the mandatory $5,000 workup and cannot pay the bill, you do not get paid for managing his heart disease and diabetes (or anything else). The Deficit Commission’s recommendations were not adopted but the ideas are out there. We need to stay alert!
I should mention that the Commission did recommend reforming the ridiculous SGR formula (annual threat to cut Medicare reimbursement). This would be good if Congress ever has the guts to tackle it.
What must we do?
We must remain unified in our efforts to promote our profession. All of us must be engaged and informed. I need your help locally and at the state level. Get involved with TMA, TexPac and with First Tuesdays. Please encourage young physicians to get involved; mentor them. Come to our BCMS meetings.
Thank you for your help.