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AOA Lawsuit Settlement FAQ

Legal Update

AOA members notified of AOA lawsuit settlement

Learn the details of the settlement and view frequently asked questions about decoupling and the impact on membership.

As announced on July 27, 2018, the AOA has reached an agreement to settle the class action lawsuit filed two years ago. Details of the settlement, which still must be approved by the court, are explained in The DO.

On August 9, members received formal notification of the settlement. It defines who is in the class, the terms of the settlement and the rights of class members. There is no need for settlement class members to do anything to approve the settlement; they will receive benefits automatically when the settlement is fully approved by the court. Class members may choose to object to the settlement, but they cannot exclude themselves from the settlement or class.

The FAQ below provides additional information about decoupling and the impact of the settlement on membership, certification and CME.


Frequently Asked Questions

If the AOA believes coupling membership and certification is legal, why did it settle the lawsuit?

Continued litigation was expected to take years and would have required significant financial and staff resources from the AOA. More important, AOA strategic initiatives to expand membership and market board certification to a new market of physicians were “shelved” until the litigation was resolved. The AOA is now free to pursue these important growth strategies without concern about how discussions and actions could be taken out of context in the litigation.

What is decoupling?

Decoupling is the separation of AOA membership from board certification. Since the inception of AOA board certification in the 1930s, AOA has offered certification only to members. Board certified diplomates are required to maintain AOA membership to keep their certification active. After decoupling, AOA certification will be open to non-members – DOs and MDs – and diplomates will no longer be required to maintain membership in the AOA.

When will decoupling go into effect?

Decoupling is one of the provisions in the settlement agreement. The effective date for implementing the settlement is 30 days after the settlement is fully approved by the court. The earliest this could happen is December 2018 if there are no appeals or delays.

Are member dues being used to pay for the settlment?

No. Payments required by the settlement are covered by insurance.

What happens after three years?

The settlement agreement prohibits the AOA from increasing regular member dues for three years. During this time, AOA retains the right to recommend dues changes in other member categories, and could also reduce regular member dues further based on market demand and fiscal assessment. After three years, the AOA could recommend an increase in regular dues. Any membership dues recommendations must be approved by the House of Delegates.

Will the AOA ever re-couple board certification and membership?

There are no plans to do so, and the settlement terms require court approval for AOA to reinstate the policy requiring membership for board certification.

Do I have to be a member of the AOA to maintain my board certification?

Yes, this is current AOA policy. The policy will change on the effective date after the settlement is fully approved by the court. The earliest this could happen is December 2018 if there are no appeals or delays.

When can I stop my AOA membership without jeopardizing my board certification?

On the effective date after the settlement is fully approved by the court. The earliest this could happen is December 2018 if there are no appeals or delays.

Does the settlement change board certification?

After decoupling, AOA certification will be open to non-member physicians, including MDs who complete their training in osteopathically recognized ACGME programs. Diplomates will no longer be required to maintain membership in the AOA to keep their certification in active status.

Does the settlement change CME requirements for membership?

Under the terms of the settlement, AOA can no longer suspend a physician’s membership for failing to meet a CME requirement, provided the physician satisfies the CME requirements for state licensure. However, each AOA certifying board will continue to set CME requirements for maintaining certification.

Will OCC continue to be required to maintain board certification?

Yes. AOA certification and OCC reflect your commitment to ongoing evidence-based education that results in high-quality, whole-person care and improves patient outcomes and satisfaction. Efforts are underway to make board certification and OCC more cost efficient, easier to maintain and more relevant to today’s practicing physicians.

Will CME be required for OCC in my specialty?

Individual certifying boards are making changes to CME requirements and exploring opportunities to leverage technology for cognitive assessment. The American Osteopathic Board of Radiology recently announced a new pilot format for cognitive assessment that eliminates the 10-year OCC examination.

Do I still need 1-A CME to maintain board certification?

Each AOA certifying board sets its own CME requirements. Most require some amount of Category 1-A CME. Learn more about CME requirements for board certification.

Does online CME now qualify for Category 1-A?

Some online CME programming qualifies for Category 1-A. Learn more about CME requirements for board certification.

Who will track my CME if I am no longer an AOA member?

Physicians will need to keep comprehensive records to document completion of the required CME and provide such documentation to the applicable certifying board. AOA’s popular TraCME service is available only to members.

How do I get my free CME?

Assuming court approval of the settlement, the free CME will be available beginning in January 2019. The AOA will provide details after the settlement is approved. Check out current online CME offerings.

Can I sit for allopathic boards?

Yes, if you meet the requirements identified by the ABMS certifying boards.

What does AOA do with membership dues?

Dues are used to fund the cost of AOA programming and operations. Details can be found on page 17 of the 2018 Annual Report.

Will AOA defend my licensure and certification if I am not a member?

AOA will always advocate for the recognition of osteopathic credentials – the DO degree, AOA residency training, and AOA certification. However, legal advocacy for individual DOs is a benefit of membership.

Can I get a refund on my 2018 membership dues after decoupling?

No, AOA bylaws do not allow for refunds of membership dues.

Why should I be an AOA member?

The AOA is the world’s largest community of physicians and students dedicated to advancing osteopathic principles and practices. It is the only national organization protecting practice rights for all DOs, including public policy and payor advocacy to ensure recognition of DO licensure and certification; reimbursement for osteopathic treatments; and advocacy for international practice rights of US educated DOs.

Members also receive a broad array of services, benefits and discounts that support DOs in their professional and personal lives, from practice management and financial/insurance products, to discounts on travel, cars and appliances. Other benefits include member’s only continuing medical education resources; comprehensive online CME activity report; and grant opportunities to support research. Learn more.

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