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Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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MedChi’s House of Delegates: How Member Engagement Transforms into MedChi Action

MedChi is well-known for its effective advocacy on behalf of Maryland’s physicians. But with so many challenges facing Maryland physicians, how does the organization determine its legislative, regulatory, and public health priorities?  The answer comes directly from our members and their involvement in our House of Delegates.  Consisting of over 150 representatives from across the state, MedChi’s House of Delegates functions as a direct conduit from the individual physician to the Capitol Building in Annapolis, the American Medical Association, and beyond. 

Too often, one physician’s insurance complaint or public health concern falls on deaf ears, but there are no deaf ears at MedChi.  And as the only organization representing all physicians in the state, MedChi is uniquely positioned to provide maximum amplification of one physician’s voice to make sure it is heard.  When an organization like MedChi speaks for all physicians, we can effect change to policies, laws, and public health initiatives.  But how, exactly does this process work? 

MedChi’s House of Delegates “provides a forum for physicians to discuss their positions openly and fairly, using the process of parliamentary procedure to protect minority opinions, while moving the organization forward at the will of the majority,” explains Michele Manahan, M.D., a former Speaker of the House and a plastic surgeon from Baltimore.  “We as physicians understand the terrain of health care delivery; we live in the environment daily.  We can recognize the hidden pitfalls.  It is our role to assist in guiding the health care system along a safe path to future successes and improvements.  The MedChi House of Delegates, as the policy-making body for our state medical society, is the agent of this change.”

Our advocacy efforts originate when individuals or small groups identify a problem or opportunity and utilize our House of Delegates as a vehicle for change.  For example, in 2015, physicians from the Talbot County Medical Society responded to Governor Martin O’Malley’s decrease in Medicaid funding by introducing a resolution calling for MedChi to work legislatively to restore Medicaid payments to equal those of the Medicare fee schedule.  The resolution was adopted by the House of Delegates at its September 2015 meeting.  As a result:

  • Our Legislative Council made it a priority of the 2016 legislative session.
  • MedChi’s lobbying team was tasked with educating legislators and other influencers on the issues.
  • MedChi leadership communicated directly with Governor Larry Hogan on the importance of the issue.
  • MedChi members were mobilized to contact their legislators and ask them to support the funding, with MedChi’s Law & Advocacy Division developing talking points to assist in their endeavors.
  • Physicians attended hearings in Annapolis and gave testimony on behalf of themselves and their colleagues

What started as a resolution drafted by Talbot County members resulted in a request from the Maryland General Assembly for a Medicaid funding increase.  Governor Larry Hogan responded by increasing Medicaid reimbursements to 94% of Medicare.  With the strength of MedChi behind them, the efforts of a few physicians resulted in a sea change that directly impacts every Maryland physician who accepts Medicaid.  That is the power of the MedChi House of Delegates.

Legislative efforts are just one example of the initiatives that originate in MedChi’s House of Delegates.  Policy changes that inform MedChi’s public health, education, and regulatory agendas are all generated from our individual delegates’ passion and participation.  The process of discussing, debating, and voting on various issues is the primary focus of MedChi’s House of Delegates, and the consensus that is built within the house of medicine is reflected in MedChi’s substantial efforts and successes on behalf of all Maryland physicians.

All full, active members of MedChi have the opportunity to serve as a delegate or alternate delegate.  Interested parties can work with their component medical society or contact MedChi directly.  Meetings are held twice a year, in April and September, and all MedChi members are invited and encouraged to attend.