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Your Voice Counts!

Opportunities abound for physicians who want to be part of advocacy process

Some of the most important work that the Chicago Medical Society (CMS) does for all its members, no matter their specialty or practice mode (solo, small or large group, or hospital-based) comes in the form of legislative advocacy. But the Society can’t do this in a vacuum—it needs your input. All members have plenty of opportunities to make their voices count, and watch their dues dollars at work. Your involvement can be as simple as writing a resolution, giving testimony, joining a committee, representing your district, or just listening in.

Policymaking is our Governing Council’s most critical function. It is members like you who supply the substance of resolutions and make the critical contacts with legislators and key decision-makers to explain—and defend—policies that are good for physicians and their patients. Your efforts combined with those of CMS can defeat legislation that is detrimental—sometimes highly so—to the practice of medicine.

Last year, modifications to CMS’ Bylaws enabled more members of Chicago’s diverse physician community to participate in our Governing Council. For the first time, hospital medical staffs and groups once considered affiliated or associated have the opportunity to influence CMS’ future. The resolutions process was also streamlined so every member has the ability to sponsor resolutions in our Council, on issues affecting their professional needs and interests. Working closely with CMS’ 14 committees, the Council moves swiftly on the concerns that members bring to us via the resolutions process. The electronic meeting format expedites committee discussion, as well as the study of issues in medicine and health care delivery.

While CMS offers myriad ways to get involved with the Society, authoring resolutions and participating in our Key Contacts program are something any physician can do. We urge you to be part of the action, putting your membership to work. It’s never been more important than now.

Resolutions: Make your Voice Heard

After reading highlights of the 2013 Illinois State Medical Society update on key bills and their current status, you might be wondering, “how did we get there?” First, it wasn’t a lucky coincidence and second, it wasn’t easy. And the whole process begins with you, our CMS members.

Reform begins through a resolution to CMS, your county medical society. And while it may sound abstract or complicated, a resolution is very simple. As an expression of opinion or statement of need, a resolution outlines a problem and desired solution. Resolutions can provide specific guidance to lawmakers, or direct your medical societies to act on a particular issue. A resolution allows rank and file members to propose ideas that ultimately shape the agenda of CMS, and of its state and national chapters, the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) and the American Medical Association (AMA).

All resolutions receive prompt attention by a CMS committee, which studies the issues raised by the member, who is also invited to give testimony during a meeting. The committee then makes its recommendation to the CMS Governing Council. The policymaking Council, which meets quarterly, may vote to adopt new policy or take direct action such as contacting a legislator or government official. After passage in the Council, the resolution moves upward to the ISMS House of Delegates, where CMS members advocate for its passage during the annual House meeting in April. Once approved, the ISMS may initiate legislative activity in the General Assembly or forward the resolution to the AMA for national implementation in the U.S. Congress.

Many public health laws and physician protections in Illinois are the direct result of resolutions by grassroots member advocates. Every year, these initiatives originating at CMS and relayed by ISMS, inform new policies and advocacy efforts by the AMA. CMS and ISMS work in unison for national reimbursement and tort reform through the AMA’s national legislative body.

If you are new to the resolution-writing process, CMS leadership will be happy to mentor you on using this powerful advocacy tool effectively. And right now is the time to get started. Resolutions requesting action by CMS and ISMS should be submitted to the Nov. 12 Council meeting. ISMS will consider them in April 2014. To learn more about submitting a resolution, or to check existing CMS/ISMS/AMA policies, please call 312-329-7335 or email

Key Contacts Program

Physicians rightly expect their medical associations to represent their interests. But when it comes to advocating on their behalf, grassroots members share the responsibility. Leaders of an organization can advocate only with members, not for them as they sit on the sidelines and wait for the desired action. A medical society is only effective in the legislative arena if its members are fully engaged participants. A disconnect on their part will sink the most agile, well-run and well-funded advocacy program.

CMS makes it easy for members to commit themselves to the advocacy process. Through our Key Contacts program, CMS encourages and trains volunteers to form meaningful connections with their lawmaker or someone running for elected office. The program is flexible, accommodating physicians’ busy schedules.

Specific duties of a Key Contact include periodically communicating CMS’ views on specific legislation or other advocacy activities, as well as CMS events and goals to legislators. Volunteers also may interact with legislative staff and report on their efforts to the CMS districts and leadership. The information exchange keeps volunteers up to date on issues within their communities.

Members who personally know a legislator are encouraged to build on their acquaintance or relationship with the lawmaker. Key Contacts can approach legislators through less formal routes, particularly if the lawmaker lives in the same community as the Key Contact, frequents the same clubs, civic organizations, or religious institutions, is an alumnus of the same school or university, or has received the CMS member’s personal support in previous elections to office.

Whatever the relationship, we encourage members to stay in touch with their local elected representatives, so they remain active and aware of issues affecting their profession. Like any organization, CMS’ ability to influence health care policy depends on a cadre of Key Contacts. The greater our access, the more opportunities we have to communicate our needs and influence health care policy. CMS encourages you to sign up now. To learn more about this worthwhile and highly effective program, please call 312-670-2550.

The Importance of Your Involvement

We can’t stress enough how important your involvement is in keeping good legislation on track and bad legislation shelved. We’ve never met a physician who did not have an opinion on some important health care issue and ideas for how to make the system work better for the profession of medicine and the patients who depend on a just health care system. We urge you to get involved today. We are here to help you with any questions or training you may need to get started.

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