Marin Medical Society

MMS News Briefs


April 2009

Physicians need to comply with identity theft rules by May 1

Physicians who bill theirpatients for services, including copays, only have until May 1 to comply withthe federal government’s new “Red Flag Rules” for identity theft detection andprevention. According to the FTC, physicians who bill their patients are“creditors” and are thus subject to the new rules.

CMA and MMS are offering twoimportant resources to help physicians comply with the new rules:

First, CMA has prepared a free26-page Red Flag Rules Toolkit thatincludes recommendations for designing and implementing an identity theftdetection and prevention program. The toolkit is available on the CMA websiteat, or you can contact MMS for a free copy at 924-3891

The second resource is a CMA Webinar on the Red Flag Rules from12:30 to 1:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 16. The webinar will focus on how physicianscan comply with the new rules. To register, visit

MMS Membership Dinner on May 12 features local health care leaders

The MMS Spring Membership Dinner on May 12 features a paneldiscussion by local health care leaders on the state of medicine in MarinCounty. The dinner, held at Jason's Restaurant in Greenbrae, begins with asocial hour at 6 p.m., continues with dinner at 7, and concludes with the paneldiscussion, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Featured speakers include Marin Community Clinics DirectorGeorgiana Farren, MD; Marin Healthcare District Director Larry Bedard, MD; andMarin Healthcare District CEO Lee Domanico. Other speakers are still pending.

Invitations to the dinner have been mailed to MMS members. Thecost is just $45 per person and includes wine and a choice of seared Cajun ahi,blackened rib-eye steak, or vegetarian gnocchi, followed by dessert.

To RSVP, contact Jessica Whittom by May 8 or 924-3891.

Additional Marin County Physician Directories on sale now

By now, each MMS member should have received onecomplimentary copy of the 2009 Marin County Physician Directory published byMMS. Additional copies cost just $30 for members, $40 for nonmember physiciansand health care facilities, and $55 for the general public.

To order extra copies,contact Jessica Whittom at 924-3891or

The directory, the first to be published in seven years,contains detailed listings for all MMS members, along with alphabetical andspecialty indexes for every physician in Marin County. It is a standardreference book for physician offices throughout the county.

Local physicians attend Legislative Day in Sacramento

Several physicians from Marin and Sonoma counties, includingMMS board member Dr. Barbara Nylund, attended the annual CMA Legislative Day inSacramento on April 14. Among other activities, the group visited with twolocal representatives, Senator Mark Leno and Assemblymember Jared Huffman.

MMS website to go online by May 1

The new MMS website is nearing completion and is scheduledto go online by May 1. The address will be

Pertussis cases in Novato highlight vaccination debate

Bringing a sense of immediacy tothe ongoing public debate about immunizations, two unrelated cases of pertussishave been reported at Novato High School in recent weeks. Both students hadreceived childhood immunizations but failed to get booster shots. A third casewas reported in Corte Madera last month.

Because the cases are unrelated,“it’s not considered an outbreak,” said Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. AnjuGoel. She did, however, recommend that physicians make sure their younger patientsare up to date on vaccinations.

The cases come amid a risingpublic debate about immunizations in Marin County, where more and more parentsare choosing not to vaccinate their children. The rate of “personal beliefexemptions,” which allow parents to enter their children in school withoutvaccinations, has increased by 6.3% in Marin over the past decade, far higherthan the state average of 1.9%. In some local schools, more than half thekindergartners have received exemptions.

Dr. Goel said the county hasformed an Immunization Coalition to address the problem and has tried to holdvaccination clinics at local schools. She noted that the CDC website at www.cdc.govhas a wealth of material about vaccinations for both patients and physicians.

Marin Community Clinics opens new clinic in Novato

Faced with increasing demand fortheir services, Marin Community Clinics has opened a new clinic in Novato. The9,600-square-foot facility is significantly larger than their previous Novatofacility, and also more accessible. With 18 exam rooms, the clinic is expectedto serve more than 6,000 patients per year.

MCC also runs clinics inGreenbrae and San Rafael. The network logged more than 50,000 patient visitslast year. That number continues to grow as the recession drags on and morepeople lose health insurance.

Good news for Medi-Cal tempered by grim predictions

Getting an additional $10billion is normally a cause for celebration, except when it comes to Medi-Cal.

Earlier this month, the governorsigned a bill that will allow California to receive more than $10 billion inadditional federal funding for Medi-Cal over the next 27 months. A short whilelater, however, the state treasurer announced that California’s share of thefederal economic stimulus package will fall short of expectations.

Because of the shortfall,several optional benefits will be cut from Medi-Cal effective July 1, includingadult dental services, acupuncture, audiology, optometry, podiatry andpsychology.

Meanwhile, polls indicate thatfive of the six ballot propositions for the May 19 special election areexpected to fail. Their defeat is likely to worsen the state’s budget crunch.

CMA files class action suit against WellPoint

CMA has joined with other state medical groups and the AMAto file a class action lawsuit against WellPoint. The lawsuit alleges thatWellPoint colluded with United Health Group on a price-fixing scheme thatrelied on an obscure database to set artificially low reimbursement rates forout-of-network care.

“Health insurers are data manipulating to set ratesartificially low, forcing patients to pay more than they bargained for whenthey go to a doctor of their choice,” said Dr. Dev GnanaDev, CMA president.

WellPoint, which operates as Blue Cross in California, islegally bound to pay the “usual and customary rates” (UCR) for care provided totheir enrollees by an out-of-network physician. To determine UCR rates,WellPoint uses a database run by Ingenix, a company owned and operated byUnited Health Group.

A recent investigation by New York Attorney General AndrewCuomo concluded that the Ingenix data is intentionally manipulated to allowhealth plans to shortchange reimbursements on medical bills. WellPoint agreedto pay $10 million to help fund a new database run by an independent nonprofitorganization to replace Ingenix. The company also agreed to quit feeding datainto Ingenix and use the new system once it is up and running.

The class action suit has been filed because the settlementwith Cuomo did not seek redress for patients and doctors. ”CMA,” said Dr.GnanaDev, “will continue fighting to obtain relief for patients and physicianswho were harmed by the systemic flaws of the conflict-ridden Ingenix database.” 

Bolinas psychiatrist Dr. Robert Shaw passes away

Bolinas psychiatrist Dr. RobertShaw, author of the controversial book “The Epidemic: The Rot of AmericanCulture, Absentee and Permissive Parenting, and the Resultant Plague ofJoyless, Selfish Children,” has died at the age of 82.

Before moving to the Bay Area in1970, Shaw was chief of child psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. Hedirected mental health services in Berkeley for many years, and he founded theFamily Institute of Berkeley. He is survived by his wife, Judith, fourchildren, and three grandchildren.

HIT Resource Center available on CMA website

CMA has established a HealthInformation Technology (HIT) Resource Center at to assistphysicians with the conversion to electronic medical records. The centerincludes a wealth of articles about HIT, along with information about obtainingfederal funds for converting to EMRs.

Marsh offers Workers’ Compensation programs

Workers’ Compensation insurancerates may be increasing soon. One rating bureau has recommended at 24% increaseon July 1, and the Department of Insurance is recommending a 5% increase.

The MMS-sponsored Workers’Compensation program from Marsh offers members a 5% discount (possibly 15%,depending upon where you have your group medical coverage). The program isunderwritten by Employers Compensation Insurance Company.

For more information, contactMarsh at 800-842-3761. 

Francis Parnell, MD
PO Box 998
Ross, CA 94957
Fax 256-8099
Georgetown Univ 1965

* board certified

Medical debts seminar - May 6

A three-hour seminar, “Collecting Medical Debts andImproving Credit Policies in Tough Times” will be held in Santa Rosa on May 6.The speaker is Robert Tavelli, president of the California Association ofCollectors. Cost is $79 (group discount available). To register call NCCS, Inc.- 707-528-4006.