New Mexico case update: Court hears oral argument

The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral argument in the Montano v. Frezza cross-border care case on Monday, August 15.

Texas Deputy Solicitor General Campbell Barker argued on behalf of the state and Dr. Frezza. New Mexico co-counsel Alice Lorenz helped Barker prepare for the argument.

A total of 31 parties — including the New Mexico Medical Society, the New Mexico Hospital Association, the University of New Mexico Health Science Center, and the American Medical Association — joined on the TAPA brief.

TMLT and the University of Texas System filed complimentary briefs. View the TMLT brief.

Several years ago, New Mexico resident Kimberly Montano traveled to Lubbock, Texas to undergo bariatric surgery.

Eldo Frezza, MD — an employee of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center —  performed the surgery. Over the next six years, Dr. Frezza performed follow-up care for complications related to Mrs. Montano’s surgery. All of the care given by Dr. Frezza occurred in Texas. Dr. Frezza’s only direct connection to New Mexico was that he was listed on the Lovelace New Mexico health plan. Reportedly he was the only bariatric surgeon listed on their plan.

Eventually, Mrs. Montano sought evaluation from another physician. She also retained legal counsel. Counsel for Mrs. Montano reports that tests revealed she had gastrointestinal bleeding caused by an “eroding permanent suture.” The second physician performed corrective surgery.

Subsequently, Mrs. Montano sued Dr. Frezza and Lovelace in a New Mexico court. Mrs. Montano argued that her case should be tried under New Mexico law because her injuries “manifested” themselves in New Mexico.

This was contested in a New Mexico Appellate Court, which agreed with Mrs. Montano. The court concluding that the “place of the wrong” is the place where Mrs. Montano allegedly first discovered the alleged injury and not where the alleged injury occurred.

Also, the court determined that the “choice of law” favored New Mexico since applying Texas’ more restrictive tort claims act violated New Mexico public policy that provides the greatest remedy for the plaintiff.

Though Dr. Frezza was not an employee of the State of New Mexico, the court elected to treat him as if he were. The court’s ruling is not necessarily limited to state employees. Interpreted broadly, the Montano appellate court decision would be a precedent for expanded New Mexico-based liability for Texas physicians in private practice because the Texas cap on non-economic damages would not apply.

The New Mexico courts have not adjudicated the merits of the case. That will occur after the court’s final determination of choice of law.

The appellate court has determined that New Mexico public policy favors one remedy for one claimant over access to care for more than half a million residents of eastern New Mexico. In arriving at this decision, the appellate court never considered New Mexico’s long-standing public policy favoring access to care or the likely public health consequences of their decision.

New Mexico physicians and hospitals have long relied on their ability to refer or transfer sick and injured patients to Texas for specialized care. The willingness of Texas providers to receive those patients may be shaken if the Montano ruling stands. Access to health care is already challenging for New Mexico patients seeking care.

Read the TAPA brief
Read the TMLT brief


Inspiring future health professionals — TMLT sponsors health science camps

by LauraDell Med small 2 Hale Brockway

Twenty middle school students sit in a darkened classroom on the University of Texas campus. They are listening to Dr. Reginald “Reg” Baptiste — a surgeon and Dell Medical School’s director of pre-health professions — talk about the cardiovascular system.

The anticipation after being promised a look at a real cow heart is palpable.

Not only do the students learn about arteries, veins, and the chambers of the heart, but they also hear about real (human) patient cases accompanied by photos and images.

The students are enthralled by what they see and hear. “Did you put him to sleep?” “Was he in pain?” “Did he bleed a lot?” Surprisingly astute questions are also asked, such as asking if a patient’s lung abscess was drained in surgery or with a chest tube.

This presentation was one of the many activities that took place during the 2016 Dell Medical School Health Science Summer Camps. The camps — running one week with 100 students each from Travis County middle and high schools — allow students to learn about various health professions and take part in health science experiments and activities.

The camps are also designed to inspire the next generation of health care professionals and help students get ready to succeed in college or medical school.

As one of the adult observers in the room (and a bit of a science junkie), I said to myself, “I wish I had been able to do this when I was growing up.” And I didn’t even get to see the cow heart.

TMLT is a proud sponsor of the summer camps, and we congratulate all the 2016 graduates. Keep reading to learn more about the camps.

Pictured above: Dr. Reginald “Reg” Baptiste discusses a bovine heart with a student.





What every physician needs to know: Tips for handling patient complaints

Patient complaints are inevitable. And when a patient complaint is not effectively managed, unfavorable or harmful consequences can result—noncompliance, dissolving of the patient-physician relationship, litigation, or reduced compensation. Therefore, strong complaint management is a core component for success worth cultivating and honing.

TMLT Policyholders to save $13 million with dividends

Recently, the Board of Governors of TMLT approved a 10% dividend for policyholders who renew in 2017. The dividend will save them approximately $13 million in 2017 premium. This is the twelfth time TMLT has declared a dividend, saving policyholders approximately $280 million since 2005.

Texas physicians interested in applying for TMLT coverage or learning how this dividend will benefit them can email or call the sales department at 800-580-8658, extension 8603. Current policyholders will receive detailed information about the dividend before their policy renews.

“After 12 years and $280 million given back through dividends, no company does more for physicians than TMLT. We are proud to be a business partner and proud to support Texas physicians throughout their careers,” says TMLT President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Donohoe.

Changes to prescription pad ordering and Prescription Monitoring Program take effect September 1

Beginning September 1, several important prescription-related functions are being transferred from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. The changes are the result of Senate Bill 195 passed in 2015.

Official prescription forms
The Texas Prescription Program transfers to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy on September 1. This includes the oversight and processing of the official prescription pads for Schedule II prescription forms.

The Texas Department of Public Safety will no longer accept orders for the official prescription pads effective August 15, 2016. However, official prescription forms issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety prior to September 1, 2016 will be considered valid prescription forms. Official prescription pad orders received after August 15, 2016 will be returned to the customers.

The Texas State Board of Pharmacy will start taking prescription pad orders on September 1, 2016. Since DPS will stop issuing prescription pads on August 15, 2016, prescribers are urged to order enough pads to cover the supply gap. See also the DPS Notice on SB 195.

Prescription Monitoring Program
On September 1, 2016, the Texas State Board of Pharmacy’s new Prescription Monitoring system will go live for prescribers. For more information about the new program, please visit the Texas State Board of Pharmacy website.