November 20, 2006

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AMA Interim Meeting Concludes with a Plea to Congress to Avert Medicare Cut

The 2006 Interim Meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates adjourned Tuesday, Nov. 14  with a plea to the United States Congress to avert the upcoming Jan 1, 2007 reduction in Medicare reimbursement.  Delegates added their signatures to hundreds already on an open letter to America's patients which appeared in full page ads in last Wednesday's Washington Post and USA Today.  Maine was well represented at the meeting with all four Maine delegates and alternates present as well as six specialty society representatives.  Maine's senior delegate, David Simmons, M.D., an internist from Calais, chaired reference committee K which handled all the issues taken up at the meeting  regarding advocacy. 

Several medical students from UNE and a representative to the Young Physician Section also attended the meeting.

Along with the Medicare issue, the following are some of the issues discussed at the meeting:

  • The AMA voted to implement the 2007 Strategic Plan.  It outlines the association's integral commitments in six major areas considered especially relevant to members:  health care environment, clinical excellence, physician practice viability, health of the public, physician education and professionalism, and a sustainable AMA.
  • The AMA voted to revise its mission and vision statements.  The new, simplified mission is to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.  Its core value are (1) leadership and service; (2) excellence in all we do; and (3) integrity and ethical behavior.  The new vision is to be an essential part of the professional life of every physician.
  • The AMA voted to work with state medical associations, employer coalitions, physician billing services and other appropriate groups to evaluate on an annual basis and recommend standards for "payer measures" for the insurance industry and government payers to be publicly reported for consumers that may include information about several measures.
  • The AMA adopted recommendations from the Council on Medical Service Report 6 that any physician payer, clearinghouse, vendor or other entity that collects and uses or warehouses electronic medical records and claims data adhere to a series of principles.  Among those principles are that electronic medical records data remain accessible to authorized users for the purposes of treatment, public health, patient safety, quality improvement and research, and that anyone seeking to access and use individually identifiable clinical data obtain physician or patient permission to do so.  The AMA also will continue to monitor the economic implications of the secondary sale and use of nonidentifable, aggregate data.
  • The AMA approved policy on several aspects of abusive practices by insurers, including opposing the development of tiered, narrow or restructured networks inappropriately driven by economic criteria.

Highlights of all the reference committees are posted to

Medicaid Reform Panel Findings Released; Are they DOA at the new Congress?

The Medicaid Reform Commission, co-chaired by former Maine Governor Angus King, released its recommendations on Friday after 18 months of work.  The commission was formed by the Bush administration and was chaired by former Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist. 

Many of the commission's recommendations were broad and lacked specifics, but they generally stressed that states should get more leeway to provide the benefits they think will best serve residents of that state.  For instance, the commission recommended that states be given the freedom to enroll the poorest of the poor into managed care programs.

Governor King noted that the commission recommendations also sought more coordinated care for the poor.  Patients should be assigned a "medical home".

One member of the commission voted against the recommendations and another abstained. 

Democratic lawmakers in the Congress were cool to the report, noting that the commission lacked independence and that it was the perogative of Congress to review the Medicaid program and legislate any necessary changes. [return to top]

New Sustaining Membership Available; Support Your Professional Association

The Association's Executive Committee this Fall authorized the establishment of a dues category that would recognize an additional contribution to MMA above and beyond the annual dues.  This "sustaining" membership category is intended to give members an opportunity to contribute to the long-term development fund which has been established to stabilize the Association's reserves.

The amount requested is $250 and there is an option on the 2007 dues statement that permits the contribution.  Amounts contributed will be placed in the long-term development account.  These funds will not be used for general operating expenses and will be untouched until the reserve reaches a level that the Executive Committee determines is sufficient to preserve the long-term viability of the organization.  Members contributing at the sustaining level will be recognized in MMA publications.

MMA President Kevin Flanigan has pledged to match the first $3,000 of 2007 sustaining memberships.  To date, five members have contributed and become sustaining members.

  [return to top]

Another Doctor in the House (the Maine House, that is); Congratulations to Robert Walker, M.D.

In the report on the election in last week's "Update", it was uncertain whether Robert Walker, M.D., a radiologist from Lincolnville had won an open house seat in house district 44.  As a result of a recount this past week, we are pleased to be able to congratulate Dr. Walker on his election to the Maine House.  Dr. Walker defeated his opponent by 18 votes.  The First Regular Session of the 123rd Maine Legislature will convene on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006.

Dr. Walker practices radiology at Waldo County Hospital in Belfast.  He is a Republican and previously served as Chair of the Waldo County Republican Committee.  He joins Democratic State Senator-elect Lisa Marrache, M.D. as the only physicians among the l86 members of the Maine Legislature. [return to top]

Don't Miss Final "First Fridays" Program of 2006: The Best of 2006 Practice Education Seminar

The final "First Fridays" CME program will be held on Friday morning, Dec. 1, 2006 at the office of MMA in Manchester from 9:00am to noon.  The program consists of the most highly rated presenters or topics from the Practice Education Seminar held in June in Bangor.  Barbara Crowley, MD, of Maine General Health Associates will present on the topic of improving the quality of care provided on an ambulatory basis.  Tarren Bragdon will update attendees on Dirigo Health and other Health Policy issues in Maine post-election, and attorney Mike Duddy will repeat his very popular talk on "Fair Market Value and Physician Compensation."  The program will be moderated by MMA EVP Gordon Smtih, Esq.

You may register on-line at the MMA website at or call Jess at 622-3374.  There is a $60 charge which includes breakfast and all course materials.  The program has been approved for three hours of CME.

Watch this publication and the Nov/Dec. issue of Maine Medicine for a complete listing of the 2007 "First Fridays" offerings which will be held the first Friday morning of each month at MMA.  Among the offerings will be a risk management program, the annual HIPAA update for office staff and a repeat of this year's program on the use of data to improve practice.

"First Fridays" was established in 2005  as a source of education for members and staff.  We welcome suggestions for programs topics.  Send your ideas and needs to Gordon Smith at or to Gail Begin at [return to top]

2007 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Information and Participation Enrollment Form

NHIC, Corp. has mailed out the annual CD containing Medicare information and participation enrollment form .  For 2007, CMS has directed the contractor (NHIC,Corp.) not to include the fee schedule on the CD.   Instead, you may download the information from

For weekly updates and the latest Medicare Part B information, you are encouraged to join the electronic mailing list at

For further information, please contact NHIC, Corp. Customer Service at 1-877-258-4442. [return to top]

"CoughSafe" Video is a Hit Coast to Coast: Congratulations Dr. Lounsbury

When Lewiston ENT specialist Benjamin Lounsbury, M.D. began dabbling in video production, he could not have envisioned the 5 minute hit video he now has on his hands.  His "Why Don't We Do It In Our Sleeves" DVD which promotes appropriate coughing and sneezing etiquette, has sold over 4,000 copies across the country and is a popular download from the google website, receiving over 87,000 views.

The Portland Press Herald this past week wrote a feature piece on the DVD which was also picked up in other Blethen newspapers.

MMA has been distributing the DVD in collaboration with Dr. Lounsbury.  You may review it or download a form to order a copy at[return to top]

Liability Coalition Unveils New Website

The website for the Maine Coalition for HealthCare Access and Liability Reform went live this past week.  Go to  to see what the coalition has been doing the past year to continue the effort to reform Maine's medical liability laws.  The coalition was formed by MMA, the Maine Hospital Association and the Maine Osteopathic Association in an effort to keep liability reform before the medical community, the public and the legislature.  The coalition is chaired by Roy Hitchings, CEO of Pen Bay Medical Center.  Physician representatives include Lee Thibodeau, M.D., Hector Tarraza, M.D., Thomas DeLuca, D.O., and Douglas Jorgensen, D.O.  Other Board members are Vince Conte, CEO of  Maine Medical Center, Andrew MacLean of MMA, Mary Mayhew of MHA and Kellie Miller of MOA. [return to top]

"Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse" Dec. 6 and 7 in Aroostook County

The educational program put together by MMA with financial support from the Office of Substance Abuse (OSA) will be coming to Aroostook County on Dec. 6 and 7.  On Wednesday, Dec. 6, the two-hour version of the program will be held at Cary Medical Center in Caribou from 5:00pm to 7:00pm.  On Thursday morning, the three hour version of the program will be held from 9:00am to noon at Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent.

The program focuses on diversion of prescription drugs and tools to prevent diversion, such as the Prescription Monitoring Program which began on July 1, 2005.  The program also discusses Chapter 11 of the Board of Licensure Rules regarding treatment of chronic pain.

Persons wishing to attend either program, for which there is no charge, may contact Gail Begin at MMA at  The programs have been approved for category one CME.

MMA recently contracted to present another eight programs on this subject in 2007.  If you would like to have a program at your practice, hospital or specialty society meeting, please contact Gail or Gordon Smith at [return to top]

123rd Maine Legislature & Leadership Taking Shape

The Senate in the 123rd Maine Legislature will be composed of 18 Democrats and 17 Republicans, a gain of 1 seat for the Republicans from the 122nd Maine Legislature.  You can see a list of the successful Senate candidates on the web at:  The Senate will include 1 physician, Lisa T. Marrache, M.D. (D-Kennebec), who will represent Senate District 25 after serving 3 terms in the House.  Dr. Marrache is a family physician in Waterville.

The final composition of the House in the 123rd Maine Legislature still is uncertain because 7 of 14 recounts remain to be completed.  None of the 7 recounts completed, however, have changed the results from the apparent winner on election day.  If the final 7 recounts, due to be finished by November 27, 2006, confirm the apparent winners, the House will be composed of 89 Democrats, 60 Republicans, and 2 Unenrolled individuals.  This result means a net gain of 29 seats for the Democrats from the 122nd Maine Legislature in which Democrats and Republicans had the same number of seats.  You can find information about the House election results on the web at:  The House also will include 1 physician, radiologist Robert P. Walker, M.D. of Lincolnville, who will represent House District 44.  Dr. Walker's victory was confirmed in a recount completed on November 15, 2006.

Three of the four partisan caucuses now have chosen their leadership for the new legislature.  The Senate Democrats have chosen the following:

  • Senate President:  Beth Edmonds (D-Cumberland), for a second term
  • Senate Majority Leader:  Libby Mitchell (D-Kennebec)
  • Assistant Senate Majority Leader:  John Martin (D-Aroostook)

Senators Mitchell and Martin both are former Speakers of the Maine House.

The Senate Republicans have chosen the following:

  • Senate Minority Leader:  Carol Weston (R-Waldo)
  • Assistant Senate Minority Leader:  Richard Rosen (R-Penobscot)

Senator Weston was the Assistant Senate Minority Leader in the 122nd Legislature.

The House Democrats have chosen the following:

  • Speaker of the House:  Glenn Cummings (D-Portland)
  • House Majority Leader:  Hannah Pingree (D-North Haven)
  • Assistant House Majority Leader:  Sean Faircloth (D-Bangor)

Representative Cummings was the House Majority Leader in the 122nd Legislature.

The House Republicans have not yet conducted their leadership caucus, but they are expected to choose the following:

  • House Minority Leader:  Josh Tardy (R-Newport)
  • Assistant House Minority Leader:  John Robinson (R-Raymond) or Robert Crosthwaite (R-Ellsworth)

The 123rd Maine Legislature will be inducted on December 6, 2006 and will begin its work during the week after New Year's Day.
  [return to top]

REMINDER: MMA Legislative Committee to Discuss Agenda on Tuesday, November 28, 2006

As mentioned in previous communications, the MMA's Legislative Committee will hold its organizational meeting at the MMA office on Tuesday, November 28, 2006 from 6 to 9 p.m.  At this meeting the Committee will review the election results and will discuss the MMA's legislative agenda for the new legislature.  Any member or specialty society liaison who wishes to raise an issue to be considered for incorporation into the MMA's legislative agenda is urged to attend.  Please RSVP to Charyl Smith, Legislative Assistant, at  The meeting will include dinner available at 6 p.m. [return to top]

FDA Requires Transition of Albuterol Inhalers

Asthma patients have used albuterol metered-dose inhalers (MDIs) for more than 25 years.  Also called "quick-relief" or "rescue" inhalers, these have traditionally used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to "propel" albuterol" into the lungs.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has now mandated that these CFC-based quick-relief inhalers be removed from the market by 2009.  Patients currently using CFC inhalers will need to transition prior to the ban date to environmentally-friendly hydrofluoroalkane-based (HFA) quick-relief inhalers.

You can find more information about this transition on the web at: [return to top]

For more information or to contact us directly, please visit l ©2003, Maine Medical Association