"It costs too much!" came the answer from a physician friend when I asked him why he was not a member of the Greater Louisville Medical Society (GLMS). "No, it doesn't!" I said. "Yes, it does!" said he. "Does not!" "Does so!" "Not." "Does." Yes, we were the model of maturity.
But the conversation caused me to think: why do I feel that belonging to GLMS has value and is worth the cost of membership, while at the same time an equally educated friend does not see the value and feels that it is not worth the cost? I have been a member since 1983 and have never questioned its value to me as a physician.
I received my 2017 Membership Dues Statement just a few weeks ago. The cost of membership is $870.00. The cost has not changed since 2004. Three hundred forty dollars is for membership in GLMS and $530 is for membership in the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA). A common question is why does one have to belong to both organizations? We, the GLMS membership, with around 3,000 members, decided years ago that we would not try to maintain a legislative lobby in Frankfort to represent us but rather work through the KMA, with its nearly 8,000 members, to do so.
The partnership has proven to be very successful over the years, and 2016 was particularly successful with several important and physician-friendly laws being passed by the Kentucky Legislature. All physicians, whether dues paying or not, will benefit from these laws. In a way it reminds me of the "Right to Work" controversy that is brewing in our country. Is it fair that a worker, who does not contribute to the work of the union, benefits from the union's negotiations? It seems to me that everyone should contribute to the common good of their profession.
Let me focus on the GLMS portion of the dues: first, it is important to recognize that membership in this or any other organization is not a commodity. You can't touch it, trade it or drive it off the lot. And, membership is not goods. You cannot eat it or wear it. So if you are looking for something concrete and physical in exchange for your dues you, of course, will be disappointed.
Membership in this or any other organization provides the right to access services and to contribute to and benefit from activities of a group of like-minded people.
A key service of GLMS is CAPS (Centralized Application Processing Service). Before CAPS, physicians had to complete multiple hospitals' medical staff application forms, all different, all with fees. The CAPS program coordinates all this for the physician or the physician's employer. Members pay a steeply discounted rate for this service. Non-members pay $350, established members just $80. This was of significant value to physicians and physician groups when more physicians were independent and most physicians went to multiple hospitals to see patients. Times have changed, but physicians and physician employers today still find it of value to outsource this tedious, complex process. In fact, most of the physician employers in Louisville will pay for GLMS dues of their employed physicians in order to obtain this tax deductible benefit. Significant upgrades in the CAPS program are now underway to make it more efficient and convenient. For example, verification forms can now be completed online, and soon the entire process will be online and paperless.
Another benefit of membership is the GLMS Annual Pictorial Roster known as the "mug book." Complete with spouses' names, telephone numbers, addresses and those pictures that have flattered us since medical school, the mug book is a great resource used by doctors' offices and hospitals throughout our region.
But, for me, the real value of belonging to GLMS is the opportunity it presents for me to be involved. GLMS has more than 15 active committees that would benefit from your input. For example, there is the Editorial Board that decides what articles will be published in
. There is the Emerging Medical Concepts Committee which is currently examining how the practice of medicine is changing in our region. There is the Policy and Advocacy Committee that is gearing up for the next legislative session. And if you are frustrated with your interactions with health insurance carriers there are five appropriately named IIRCs (Insurance Issue Resolution Committees), one for each of the major carriers in Kentucky. There are committees for those who have an interest or expertise in law, ethics, quality improvement and patient safety.
For medical students and young to mid-career physicians, there is the opportunity to develop leadership skills and to enhance your resume. All physician members can use GLMS's influence to get on the Boards of community organizations. As a member, you can be proud of, and get involved in, any of the many signature programs that got its start with GLMS: Supplies Over Seas, The Healing Place, Wear the White Coat, Surgery on Sunday and numerous mission trips.
So, with access all of these opportunities and benefits, in my view, membership does not cost too much. If fact, I will go so far as to say that if you do not think it is worth it, then you are not involved enough.