Advocating for you

HCMS has a long history of advocating for our members and their patients. Physicians and group practices struggle to understand and navigate the complex and continually evolving U.S. healthcare system, which has a myriad of requirements from federal, state and private payers. HCMS strives to ease these burdens and prevent unnecessary government interference in the provision of efficient, high-quality patient care. HCMS provides comments to proposed rules and regulations, meets with payers and state and federal government officials to communicate physicians’ concerns and the problems they encounter, files complaints with regulatory agencies when rules and laws are not adhered to, and intervenes when physicians cannot overcome obstacles with payers and others.

Payment and Practice Help - In addition to regulatory reform, the HCMS departments of Payment Advocacy, Practice Management, and Quality/HIT provide hands on assistance with a multitude of issues. We have collected millions of dollars for our members in unpaid or improperly paid claims. All the assistance and consulting provided by this program is free to our members. Below are highlights of some of our more notable accomplishments.
Wellcare Texan Plus CMS Complaint – In January 2019 HCMS received a high number of complaints regarding Texan Plus and Wellcare. The migration of Texan Plus physicians to the Wellcare system failed, and as a result, the affected physicians could not access the portal, verify eligibility and benefits, obtain authorizations or referrals online or by phone, or conduct any business online. Payments to physicians were also delayed, incorrect, or denied, and seeing Texan Plus patients became difficult. Many physicians and patients had to cancel appointments and procedures until they received instructions from Wellcare. Unfortunately, the instructions they received were inconsistent and often incorrect. HCMS met with Wellcare leaders to discuss the issues and find a work-around until these physicians could be manually loaded into Wellcare’s system. Corrective action was slow despite several meetings with Houston market and corporate Wellcare leadership, and physicians as well as patients suffered. As a result, HCMS filed a complaint with the Atlanta CMS Regional Office to find resolution to the surfeit of problems that continue to effect physicians and their patients. We have had several discussions with CMS Atlanta office. HCMS will continue to assist physicians who have contacted us for help and will meet with Wellcare leadership frequently until these issues are resolved. If you are having any issues with Wellcare Texan Plus, please call HCMS at 713-524-4267 and ask for the Payment Advocacy Depart. 

Prior Authorization – 2019 Texas Legislative Session – Passed SB 1742. Prior Authorization (utilization review) requirements have become increasingly burdensome and are adversely affecting patient care delaying procedures and needed medications or denying these services altogether. HCMS has been at the forefront to change the law in regard to the onerous prior authorization requirements imposed on physicians by payers through Congress and state legislators. 

HCMS put forth a resolution to the 2018 TMA House of Delegates that physicians conducting utilization review medical necessity decisions must be a physician licensed in Texas and be of the same or similar specialty as the requesting physician. We were advised this resolution would be an uphill battle as there would be a great deal of push-back from payers. Nonetheless, HCMS worked with TMA lobby staff and general counsel to push through the 2019 Texas legislative session. SB 1742, which was signed into law by Governor Abbott in June 2019, with an effective date of Sept. 1, 2019, resulted in requiring that:
A Utilization Review Agent’s (URA) utilization review (UR) plan to be reviewed by a physician licensed to practice medicine in Texas and conducted in accordance with standards developed with input from appropriate health care providers and approved by a physician licensed to practice medicine in Texas.
A URA to conduct utilization review under the direction of a physician licensed to practice medicine in Texas. 
Personnel employed by or under contract with a URA to perform UR to be appropriately trained and qualified and meet the requirements of the UR chapter and other applicable law, including applicable licensing requirements.
Modifies language regarding reviews of adverse determinations to permit an earlier same or similar specialty review at the 1st level appeal, rather than the 2nd level appeal.

The 2019 Texas legislative push to improve the prior authorization process for physicians is in the infancy stages. We will continue this effort by working with the new task force on prior authorization which was mandated by SB1742, and the new TMA Ad Hoc Committee on Prior Authorization.  

The AMA conducted a survey to determine the effects of prior authorization on the healthcare industry: 2019 AMA Prior Authorization Survey.

Aetna TDI Complaint – In late 2018, several physicians contacted HCMS regarding letters from Aetna informing them they were being deselected from 3 Aetna plans. As there was a fully-insured plan included, the deselection process from that plan violated the Texas Insurance Code, particularly sections 1301.0057 and 1301.0057, regarding physician termination. As such, HCMS filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) resulting in the removal of the fully-insured plans from the deselection notice. HCMS then met with Aetna representatives to better understand the criteria used to identify physicians for the systematic deselection. HCMS provided information that revealed that several of the physicians who contacted us did not meet that criteria. As such, Aetna reconsidered and pended or rescinded the deselections for several physicians.   

Molina TDI Complaint – In 2018, HCMS received an unusually high number of complaints from members regarding Molina Marketplace payment issues amounting to millions of dollars. Many practices, both large and small, had been attempting to resolve their issues as far back as 2015, to no avail. Many filed complaints with the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), but after the lack of responsiveness from both Molina and TDI, physicians turned to HCMS for help. 
HCMS reached out to its Molina contacts to try and resolve the issues, but like the membership, we too experienced a lack of response. Consequently, HCMS filed a TDI complaint against Molina in September 2018 on behalf of the affected practices. As a result, Molina’s CEO contacted HCMS to set up a meeting to discuss the issues. During the meeting, they committed to be the point of contact to resolve all issues with the assistance of their COO. Individual meetings were arranged at the HCMS offices in November 2018 with the Molina COO and all of the affected practices who had contacted HCMS for assistance. In February 2019, as a result of the HCMS complaint to TDI, TDI issued a Consent Order fining Molina $500,000 and requiring them to address their deficiencies.
To date over 2.7 million dollars has been paid to these physicians, and we continue to meet with Molina on a monthly basis to finalize the initial issue and address new ones as they are reported to us. If you are having any issues with Molina, please call HCMS at 713-524-4267 and ask for the Payment Advocacy Depart.

United Compass TDI Complaint – In 2015, HCMS became aware of several issues regarding the roll-out of the United Compass Marketplace product. Physicians and patients could not determine if they were in- or out-of-network. The physician directory was inaccurate, and patients signed up for plans believing their physicians were in-network when they were not. This led to claims denials and delayed patient care while physicians tried to determine their network status. HCMS was working with United, but the issues were vast. In June 2015 HCMS filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI). 
After complaint filed, UnitedHealthcare worked with HCMS and our members to expedite resolution of the issues. 

Tort Reform – 2003 Tort Reform – Passed HB 4 and Prop 12. This legislation was the result of years of effort by the medical communities, TMA, HCMS, TEXPAC, and others to create a fair and balanced judicial process in malpractice cases, and to de-incentivize claimants from filing frivolous lawsuits. This practice became so prevalent in the Texas Valley that physicians left the area en masse leaving a severe shortage of healthcare professionals to serve the community. Physicians began leaving statewide as the cost of medical liability for Texas physicians skyrocketed, making it too costly to practice medicine in Texas. These resulting shortages prompted the need for the legislation which placed a cap on noneconomic damages at $250,000 for all physician defendants and an additional cap of $250,000 for each of up to two medical care institutions. Other previous plaintiff-friendly procedural devices, such as forum shopping, were eliminated. It also required that there be a written medical report by a physician in the same or similar field as the one being sued, a report that clearly identifies the appropriate standard of care and how it was violated, and a delineation of specific damages resulting from the violation of the standard. The passage of HB 4 removed the hostile litigation environment in Texas and stopped the exodus of physicians in search of a more judicially fair and friendly one. In fact, the number of physicians coming to practice in Texas has increased dramatically since passage of the bill resulting in access to care in areas rural and border communities of Texas that was previously unavailable. Also, the number of liability carriers increased creating competition and better premium rates. Texas remains the premiere healthcare mecca in the country, and this legislation is partly responsible for this distinction. Note: Every Texas legislative session, Tort Reform is attacked by lobbies who are against this law. Defending Tort Reform is a priority for HCMS and TMA.  
 

TxEver Death Certificate Registration System -The Texas Department of State Health Services created a new death certificate registration system, TxEVER, which went live Jan. 1, 2019. Since going live, it has been plagued with technical issues which have caused many physicians to exceed the 5-day window to file a death certificate. HCMS took action and met with representatives from the Texas Department of State Health Services to discuss the issues.  As a result, HCMS created a list of FAQs specifically designed to address your concerns about the new system.

CMS Proposed and Final Rules

Below are the more recent comments HCMS submitted in regard to proposed rules and regulations:

2021 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program

Proposed Rule (Published August 17, 2020)

2020 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program

Proposed Rule (Published August 14, 2019)
TMA Comments on Proposed Rule
Final Rule (Published November 15, 2019)

2019 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program

Proposed Rule(Published July 27, 2018)
HCMS Comments on Proposed Rule
Letter to CMS on Eval and Mgmt Documentation Burdens

Final Rule (Published November 23, 2018)

2018 Quality Payment Program

Proposed Rule(Published June 30, 2017)
HCMS Comments on Proposed Rule

Final Rule (Published Nov. 16, 2017)

2018 Physician Fee Schedule

Proposed Rule(Published July 21, 2017)
HCMS Comments on Proposed Rule

Final Rule (Published Nov. 15, 2017)

2017 Quality Payment Program

Proposed Rule(Published May 9, 2016)
HCMS Comments on Proposed Rule

Final Rule (Published Nov. 4, 2016)

2017 Physician Fee Schedule

Proposed Rule(Published July 15, 2016)
HCMS Comments on Proposed Rule

Final Rule (Published Nov. 15, 2016)

Get Involved

To make a powerful impact on healthcare, HCMS needs your voice. Here’s how to get involved:
First Tuesdays at the Capitol
HCMS Delegation to the TMA