It got brutal in a hurry. Egos and attitudes quickly got in the way and a whole sense of mistrust was established on both sides of the table. Old battle wounds were brought out of the closet and new wounds made. The two sides had people saying it would never happen, but then there were some saying it must happen. The problem is age-old. One association's legislative goal was brought down because the other association would go and tell the legislators that the other DCs were against it. This got very confusing for the legislators and they finally had had enough.
"You guys get your act together and then come and tell us what you want, otherwise don't come here at all," they told us.
Two years ago when I was the first vice president of the OSCA, I began serious meetings with members of the Joint Chiropractic Association (JCA), and a tentative contract was made. There were still a lot of battles and meetings, however, but we finally got a workable agreement.
Unfortunately there was still a lot of mistrust, and it was a tricky situation to keep the rumors and innuendoes under control. We had to sit down and ask what our collective goals were. It boiled down to legislation, money to fight insurance discrimination, and educational seminar topics.
The main things standing in our way were egos, control of money, and the goal of some in our state to gain limited prescriptive authority. There are four chiropractic organizations in our state, and one seeks prescription rights.
By the time I took over as the president of OSCA (which was by no means my goal from the outset of my membership with the association), the OSCA and the JCA had a contract voted on and a 10-member unified liaison committee. This is how we formed the committee: Each association presented a list of six names to the other association. Each association chose three names from the lists, then the president of each organization appointed one member from his own organization; a final member was elected by the board of each organization.
This solved the problem of one of the organizations stacking the committee, and thus ended the gridlock over every issue. We put a very good mix of people together.
Our unified committee was responsible for the legislative agenda and educational seminars. Not only did the legislature like this, but now the vendors only had two seminars to come to instead of the usual four (a spring and fall seminar from each association, which at times were placed on the same weekend). Also, there was a set seminar price, which solved the problem of one association undercutting the other's price.
All monies made are distributed on a straight percentage basis (most staying with the unified committee to hire a lobbyist); part is put aside to develop an insurance discrimination fund to hire a full-time attorney to assist us.
We are targeting legislation against insurance discrimination, and no longer have to work with a divergent lobbying force; we are working against the physical therapists that are attempting (as in other states) to legally practice spinal manipulation; and 95 of every 100 doctors in the state are attending our seminars.
As for the egos, by us maintaining the original associations and not starting a new one, that issue is solved. There has been a whole new attitude of excitement, and no more backbiting. There will always be some dissention, but it isn't pathological now. We move forward. We have our fall seminar in October; we will celebrate the first year of the new unified effort; we will make what necessary changes to the contract to make it work better, but there will be a new one for the next year and, we expect, for the years to come.
With the exception of the few opposing us in principle (those looking for prescriptive rights), we move forward. Ours is an attitude of excitement, as we have maintained our original associations, and come to agreement without forming a new one.
I just wanted to share that I am very proud of, the chiropractors of Oklahoma, and I commend my colleagues for their help in making this unified program a success.
Oklahoma State Chiropractic Association