The Catholic Health Association is considering revamping its dues structure to collect money from hospital systems instead of the systems' individual facilities.
If the change occurs, the CHA would become the second national healthcare association to make changes in its membership structure to recognize the evolution of hospitals from freestanding facilities to interlocking systems of hospitals.
Late last year, the American Hospital Association went a step further when it voted to allow integrated delivery systems to join as full-fledged AHA members (Dec. 15, 1997, p. 2).
At the CHA, a 12-member task force has been mulling membership and dues changes for about two years.
Although talk of change is preliminary, the task force is expected to make some recommendation to the association's 25-member board at the board's meeting next month in the District of Columbia.
"We are in a listening posture, which could end up in adjustments," said the Rev. Michael Place, president and chief executive officer of the CHA.
Any bylaw change that's approved by the board would have to be approved by the CHA membership at its annual business meeting in June in New Orleans.
"CHA has always tried to reflect the ministry as best it could, and with this consolidation that's an effort to do that," said Peter Leibold, CHA general counsel.
Membership includes 530 individual hospitals, 313 long-term-care facilities and 59 systems, as well as religious congregations, personal members and other healthcare-related organizations.
While the systems are members, they don't pay dues because their individual hospitals pay dues to the CHA. The hospitals pay 33 cents for every $1,000 of operating expense, said Brian Camey, chief financial officer at the CHA.
If the systems should become dues-paying members, Camey said, it's not known what sort of payment structure would be used.
However, generating more revenues isn't a driving principle behind any membership change, CHA officials said.
"A primary objective is to not have a fluctuation in revenue as a result of these changes," Camey said.
The CHA has seen a decline in its total revenues and dues collections. According to its 1996 federal tax filing, otherwise known as a form 990, the CHA reported total revenues of almost $15.2 million and membership dues and assessments of about $11 million. That's a decrease from its 1995 filing, which showed almost $15.5 million in total revenues and dues of more than $11.5 million.
But Camey said the decline in dues and revenues has nothing to do with the change being considered.
"The two are not related," he said.
Camey said the loss of dues happened because of consolidation in the industry.
Richard Wade, chief spokesman for the AHA, said his association was responding to requests from members to calculate membership dues as a package for systems rather than charging dues to a system's individual components.
"The big systems are trying to consolidate and be more economical in their spending, so that's what they're saying to the associations," Wade said.
At the AHA, Wade said dues for an entire system will either remain the same or be cheaper than if all its individual facilities paid.
If systems do become dues-paying members of the CHA, it won't diminish the role of other hospitals within the association.
"We want to stress that we are by no means forgetting about the freestanding, stand-alone facilities out there," Camey said.