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 Process Questions   

1. Q: Why should the organizations consolidate?
A: To provide a stronger, consistent, responsive, unified and more recognizable representation of the O&P profession to payers, consumers, members and allied health providers. The number of O&P organizations and their roles is confusing - even to members within the respective organizations. The cost of belonging to multiple organizations has reached a breaking point for many members. Consolidation could keep costs to members at least at the same level and may control future increases in dues.


2. Q: Who will benefit from consolidation?
A: The members of the consolidated organization will benefit the most from consolidation. O&P professionals and the companies in which they work will have the benefit of efficiency and clarity in their relationships with their national association. The O&P profession will be represented in the policy and payment arenas by the most effective, unified voice. In addition, consumers will benefit from the ease of communicating with only one association.


3. Q: What does "consolidation" mean?
A: By definition it means "the process of uniting, the unification of two or more corporations by dissolution of existing ones and creation of one single new corporation." For the O&P profession it would mean the members of AOPA and the Academy would vote to dissolve their incorporation status. In addition, ABC would dissolve as a corporation and join the new association as an autonomous credentialing organization. NCOPE would also become an autonomous entity within the new organizational structure of the association.


4. Q: Who made the decision to pursue consolidation at this time?
A: The boards of directors of the Academy, AOPA and ABC agreed to pursue consolidation based on their understanding of current demands on the profession and the need to develop a cohesive, efficient and effective single O&P association. The decision to actually consolidate will be made by the vote of the membership of the AOPA and the Academy, as well as the ABC Board of Directors.


5. Q: Why is consolidation such a good idea now, if it was just defeated in 1992 with the ACPORS proposal?
A: Much has happened in the O&P profession, the healthcare environment and the world in general in the last seven years. O&P business mergers have become a common occurrence as well as pressure from payers seeking more for less. As stated earlier, the cost of three organizations representing the profession has reached a point where many facilities and practitioners can no longer afford to belong. Also, with the many changes taking place and being proposed concerning O&P care, a single, unified and strong voice is needed not only to support the growth of our profession but also to protect the interests of the O&P consumer. Another difference is that this process of consolidation, unlike the 1992 effort, is being conducted with the full input of the membership.


6. Q: Why didnt the leadership consult with the rank and file membership prior to moving ahead with consolidation?
A: The consolidation initiative grew out of what the elected leadership heard from the rank and file membership for the past few years. In addition, because of this oversight role, Officers and Board members in the National Office and the other O&P organizations have been intimately involved with the operations of the organizations and know well the problems with the current organizational structure. Having heard the concerns of members, the elected leadership decided to seek a solution. Prior to the Consolidation Consensus Conference in December 1998, the board members spoke about consolidation and listened for opinions at state and regional O&P meetings. Most members said either that they favored consolidation or that they wanted to understand more about the design of the consolidated organization before they decided. In any event, only the AOPA and Academy memberships will be able to approve or disapprove the consolidation. The final decision lies with the membership.


7. Q: What was the "Consensus Conference" and who was invited?
A: The Consensus Conference was a 3-day meeting of the Academy, AOPA, ABC and NCOPE boards of directors and other volunteer attendees to discuss how to make consolidation a reality. Invitations to attend the Consensus Conference were sent to every ABC certified practitioner, Academy member and AOPA member companies. Everyone that responded was allowed to attend. This meeting was held in order to reach consensus on essential elements of the organizational design and process, such as membership, governance, voting, etc. The result of the meeting was a clear direction to the Steering Committee (the National Office Board) on how to proceed with drafting bylaws for consideration by the membership.


8. Q: Was there a report on the Consensus Conference immediately following the meeting?
A: The conference was a starting point not the end point. The Consensus Conference was the first step in designing the consolidation structure and to begin communicating, educating and exploring the concept of consolidation with the members. Subsequent to the meeting, a press release about the conference was provided to all members and published in the O&P Almanac in January. The Conference sketched an outline for the development of draft bylaws for the new organization. The leadership made a decision to wait and give the membership the benefit of the bylaws in January, rather than a skeleton report about a meeting in late December.


9. Q: What opportunities will the membership have to discuss the issues involved in consolidation prior to the final decision?
A: The membership will have many opportunities between January and July to discuss the merits or pitfalls of the consolidation proposal. The proposed draft bylaws have been published on the O&P website and the leadership of all of the organizations have strongly encouraged members to submit their comments by email, fax, telephone, etc. A good deal of discussion about the plan has taken place on the Internet on the O&P Listserv, and the Academy and AOPA are updating their membership frequently. The Academy Annual Meeting in March is the first opportunity for members to discuss the issue face-to-face. In New Orleans, the Academy will conduct a special session on consolidation on Thursday afternoon, and the issue will be discussed again prior to the business meeting on Friday. Over the next several month, members will be invited to air their questions and concerns directly to the elected leadership by mail or phone or at a number of regional and state O&P meetings.


10. Q: Who will make the final decision on consolidation?
A: The membership! Only individuals and companies that have a current membership with AOPA and the Academy will vote by mail on the consolidation plan this Summer. The ABC Board of Directors will make the decision for their organization as specified by their bylaws.


11. Q: How will the voting on consolidation work?
A: After the 4-month comment period, the Boards of the organizations will vote on a consolidation plan in July, which, if approved, subsequently will be sent to the membership. In order to consolidate the organizations into one corporation, the current corporations must be dissolved. Under the law of the state in which the organizations are incorporated, this requires a 2/3 positive vote of the membership eligible to vote. For example, the Academys active voting membership is 1844 then 1235 would have to vote in favor. It is anticipated that the membership votes will be counted in September.


Organization Questions


12. Q: Will the new organization be controlled by "professional" or "business" interests?
A: The new organization has the interest of the O&P profession at heart, which includes professionals and business. You can not talk about professional interest without including business interest and vice versa. The membership in the new association will include a variety of categories, including practitioners, facilities and suppliers and others. As set forth in the proposed draft bylaws, the voting cadre will include "Active Individual Members" and "Active Company Members." The voting rules will ensure that each has an equal vote.


13. Q: Wont having both professional and business owners in the same organization create conflict?
A: It is believed that professionals and business owners ultimately have the same interests at heart: promotion of the ABC credential; quality patient care; promotion of practitioners and organizations as the only qualified providers of O&P care; and assurance of adequate O&P coverage for consumers. This will serve as the foundation for the new Associations initiatives.


14. Q: Why couldnt the current organizations just do a better job of working together as a "coalition" of independent organizations?
A: Working as a coalition of separate organizations can certainly work, but it is believed that if the current organizations were joined in a consolidated association certain operational efficiencies and policy-level decisions could be more effectively executed. If the membership decides, in its wisdom, that consolidation should not be effected, then the AOPA, the Academy and ABC will continue to improve its current cooperative relationship.


15. Q: Why is "one voice" better than many voices in legislative matters?
A: A single organization can better develop a formal statement on issues affecting the profession and consumers. It is also more cost effective if one organization, rather than three, devotes its resources to affecting political and public policy change.


16. Q: How will the new organization deal with other O&P organizations, such as BOC, NAAOP and others?
A: As currently contemplated, the proposed draft bylaws establish a number of "allied" membership categories. While the new association will aggressively recruit for these types of members, the association may develop policies and positions which conflict with those of its competitors. It should also be noted that the creation of a new organization will not necessarily prevent the development of a competitive association that represent constituencies who disagree with our views. However, the structure of the new association will encourage and embrace cadres of members who cannot otherwise belong to the current organizations. It is hoped that this will minimize motivations to establish competitive membership groups.


17. Q: What will happen to the Fellows program and can I retain my FAAOP if already awarded?
A: The new association will enthusiastically embrace and administer the Academys Fellowship program. In addition, the new association may well develop, over time, additional programs to enhance the meaning of the Fellowship award. Every effort will be made to maintain the awards program for the Academy and AOPA.


18. Q: What will happen to Chapters?
A: This is an issue of some debate. As noted in the "Special Notes" accompanying the proposed draft bylaws, the new association may create certain liability obligations for sponsoring chapters and regional associations. It remains to be seen whether the new association will decide to do so.


19. Q: What about Societies?
A: With respect to societies, we will first ask the membership what it wants to see happen. Most likely they will continue and will probably benefit from the additional participation of company membership.


20. Q: Will CEC programs still be offered?
A: Yes!


21. Q: Will the Academys Annual Meeting and AOPAs Annual Meeting still exist or will they combine the meetings?
A: There are no plans to eliminate AOPA or the Academys annual meetings. There will always be a need for a meeting that focuses on professional development, just as there is a need for businesses to be concerned with issues affecting their ability to do business. There have been discussions in previous years about combining the meetings and the conclusions drawn in the past were to keep the two meetings.


22. Q: Did AOPA initiate the current consolidation effort?
A: No. All three organizations, (AOPA, Academy, and ABC) jointly discussed and unanimously agreed to pursue consolidation.


23. Q: How will the integrity of ABCs credentialing and accrediting processes be protected?
A: While the ABC would no longer be a separate corporate entity, it will continue to retain its autonomy in the following areas: Budget, staffing, operations, and policies and procedures. The reason for this autonomy is to assure its primary beneficiaries: the consumer and payor, that it remains an objective, standards-setting component that is free from "undue influence" of the membership to which such standards are applied.


24. Q: What is the benefit to be gained if both ABC and NCOPE must have their autonomous boards and operational integrity?
A: You have all groups vested with interest of O&P working together to lead the profession into the future.


25. Q: Will I have a vote simply because I am an ABC credentialed individual or facility?
A: No, as contemplated by the current proposed draft bylaws, all ABC-certified practitioners and accredited organizations that belong to the association will have a right to vote concerning elections of commissioners and on changes to the association bylaws affecting the ABC. Non-member ABC practitioners and organizations will not be able to vote. This stipulation is intended to encourage membership in the new association.



26. Q: Will my dues decrease?
A: One reason for the establishing of a new single association is to control the costs associated with administering three organizations. Thus, the goal of the Consolidation project is to create a dues/ABC fees structure that will not only be an incentive for current and future members to join but which will also finance the new associations operations in meeting its objectives. While dues/fees may not actually decrease, the new association will be better able to establish such dues/fees for effectively encouraging membership and managing the new associations programs.


27. Q: Will my dues increase?
A: One intent of creating the new association is to make dues/fees more cost effective and attractive to existing and new members. It should be noted, however, that as operating costs increase and programmatic activities expand, dues/fees may also increase. Yet, in a new single association, such costs can be better controlled, thus, minimizing undue increases. As a first step, individual and company member dues/fees will, at the least, be comparable to existing dues/fees with the goal of establishing initial dues/fees that create an incentive to belong to the new association.


28. Q: What will happen to the assets of the current organizations?
A: The assets of each existing organization will be assigned to the new association. ABC assets will likely be designated for use by the Association to support ABC activities and programs.


29. Q: If I pay my ABC credentialing fee, am I automatically a member of the new organization?
A: No, as presently contemplated, an ABC credentialed individual or accredited organization will have the opportunity to join the association at a combined dues/fee level that is competitive. If an individual or organization wishes only to maintain its ABC credential, then a different fee will be assessed.

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