Cates plays key role as state doctors debate healthcare policies at TMA annual meeting

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Medical Association assembled nearly 130 of its physician members in Franklin, Tenn. last weekend for the 187th annual business meeting of the TMA House of Delegates with Dr. James Cates, a Cookeville family physician, and 2021-22 chair of the TMA Board of Trustees, authoring one of the key resolutions.

Delegates participated in a special session which included testimony from TMA physician leaders about patient care issues and concerns due to prior authorization. It was identified as a top issue facing Tennessee physicians and their patients, and a resolution was introduced to combat its detrimental effects. Physician wellness, another top concern raised by incoming TMA President Ed Capparelli, MD, of Jacksboro, was affirmed by the House of Delegates through a resolution calling for increased statewide access to mental health and wellness services for physicians. The expansion of healthcare services to rural and underserved populations through the development and fortification of existing programs and utilization of existing infrastructure was also prioritized by the assembly. 

“One of TMA’s most important functions is its ability to rally physicians from across the state to engage in constructive discussions on healthcare’s most pressing issues,” said Lee Berkenstock, MD, a family physician from Memphis and newly elected chair of the TMA Board of Trustees. “We bring unique perspectives across the diverse set of medical specialties, practice environments, and geographic locations in which we live and practice.

“Healthy dialogue with legislators, insurance companies and other stakeholders is key as we physicians strive to deliver the highest level of care in our state,” Berkenstock continued. “While we may not always agree, doctors are well positioned to positively impact the process, and we remain committed to working together to achieve common ground. This is why membership in our organization is approaching record levels, and TMA is respected and seen as the most valuable and trusted advocacy organization on Capitol Hill.”

TMA policy updates 

Physicians in the House of Delegates debated resolutions on a number of healthcare topics. The assembly approved one resolution calling for reform of the prior authorization process under health insurance regulations that requires healthcare providers to pre-qualify treatments with insurance companies before rendering services.

Dr. Cates authored the resolution to address the organization’s concerns with improper denials, delays and disruptions in necessary medical care and exorbitant costs absorbed by medical practices due to staffing needs and unnecessary wait times.

Other notable policies the association adopted or referred to the TMA Board for possible action:

·         Developing programs to better coordinate and expand access to healthcare services for rural and underserved populations.

·         Prioritizing and promoting physician wellness efforts by strengthening and expanding regional programs and raising awareness of their services.  

·         Seeking to eliminate the gap between the days of prescriptions and the availability of refills allowed by insurance plans.

·         Improving public health and safety by reducing the availability of shared dockless electronic scooters in the state and enforcing mandatory helmet laws and availability of helmets.

·         Continuation of TMA work toward expansion of much-needed medical residency training positions and medical schools.

·         Adoption of a medical staff member bill of rights and a standard of concepts to be included in medical staff bylaws to protect medical staff self-governance and autonomy.

·         Requiring syringe services programs to distribute fentanyl test strips when requested and annual reporting of distribution totals.

·         Supporting prohibition of indoor tanning services using ultraviolet rays to those under 18 years of age.

·         Reviewing available educational resources on gun safety and proper storage practices through the organization’s Board of Trustees and public health committee.

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