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PT on the Run

The APTA -- Why Bother?

Published February 6, 2014 12:24 PM by Michael Kelley

(Editor's Note: Throughout the month of February, ADVANCE bloggers Michael Kelley and Lisa Mueller will post "Dueling Blogs," in which they argue opposing sides of the same issue. Topic #1 -- "Is APTA Membership Valuable?")

I was an APTA member for one year when I started working. I'll be honest, the only reason I joined was because my employer paid the APTA dues. As a new grad, however, even the state chapter dues seemed impossible to afford on my own, so I let my membership lapse and have never rejoined. As a young therapist, the cost of APTA and state chapter dues were just too much. Other therapists I've talked to (both young and older) have offered similar reasons for why they aren't members. As with any financial decision, the cost-benefit analysis does not seem to add up when it comes to the APTA.

I spent much of the past week looking around on the APTA website to learn more about what exactly they do and how exactly they do it. I have to be honest, they do seem to do quite a bit. There are various sections on their website for patient advocacy, political pursuits, reimbursement information etc. What complicates things is when I wanted to learn more about what the APTA specifically does within these various areas, I was met with a "Log-in" screen.

I've always been the kind of guy who likes to see proven results upfront before I offer an individual or organization my time or money. For instance, it baffles me why the APTA would not want me to know what their "Public Policy Priorities" are for this coming year. Wouldn't that be something you would want potential members to know? By being open about what your goals are, wouldn't that be a way of drawing in a larger membership? Not everything is blocked on their website, of course, but the vast majority of the information compiled is available via a quick Google search.

When I asked my coworkers about the APTA, one big topic that arose was the PT Journal. Now, obviously, there are no other peer-reviewed journals out there that offer only PT-related content (at least to my knowledge). But is this reason enough to join the APTA? An older coworker of mine pointed out that every journal article in the PT Journal is likely available independently online. Even if you have to purchase the article, it's still cheaper to pay for one article you need as opposed to hundreds of dollars for an annual membership.

We'll be getting to this next point in an upcoming "Dueling Blogs" post, but I wanted to mention here as well that when it comes to politics, I just don't see the APTA having the political muscle necessary to effect real change within our profession. The APTA has some political sway, no doubt, but comparing that to the political capital the insurance lobby has makes the APTA look pretty pathetic. I crunched the numbers; the APTA has in its membership approximately 20% of the national PT, PTA and physical therapy students (2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and CAPTE). I wonder how seriously members of congress on any level of government take the APTA when they represent such a small fraction of their total numbers.

I looked it up and for me to be an APTA member in the state of Illinois, it would cost me $485/year. Is it worth it to join not knowing what their political aspirations are? Is it worth it to join for a peer-reviewed journal that's available elsewhere? Is it worth it to join when the other players in the game so incredibly dwarf the APTA? For me, right now, the answer is no.

Now don't get me wrong... I believe in the power of people speaking up for what they believe in and fighting for those beliefs on whatever battlefield they can. I believe in the importance of evidence-based practice. And I believe in the furthering of our profession through both political and non-legislative avenues. It just doesn't seem like the APTA is doing enough to warrant me spending that much money right now. So for the time being at least, I will remain but a lowly "non-member."

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$510 a year? My wife and I are both PTs. Even if we paid in installment plans we would be paying $128 per month for 8 months of the year. My wife did a residency program out of school and was requesting the new grad graduated repayment rate which they refused saying that she gave up the right to that cost when she chose to do a residency program (I thought this was encouraged in the apta?) It would be great if the apta acknowledged married couples, loans, rising costs of school, or those that went through a year of training with decreased to no salary. No wonder only 20% are members.

matt lu December 1, 2014 4:37 PM

Our APTA dues almost dissuade new grads from joining...and old timers like myself find the cost eats into savings, as earnings have changed, and what employers will pay for has changed...and the cost of membership has risen far more than earnings.  That being said, there is a sense of security knowing we have representatives protecting our profession, and us from other deeper-pocketed groups who would have us blend out, from unethical practitioners.  Our profession requires scientific study as well as practice, we have people involved in research that enhances our knowledge and our visibility in the medical marketplace.  We have many voices - and when concerns and issues are brought to our attention - we have people who will listen.  The APTA is our support system.

Lorraine, Geriatrics - Senior PT, out patient April 20, 2014 7:30 PM
Seal Beach CA

Cut the membership fees by about 1/3 and I would think about it again.  I stopped because though I found the journals important, I felt the main thing that the APTA did for me was to sell my information to so MANY different businesses who hustled us constantly.  I felt that mostly I paid to be harrassed by marketing.

Tom, OP orthopedics - PT, H & D 54th St March 3, 2014 7:42 PM
New York NY

The only reason not to join APTA is cost, and I do believe they shoot themselves in the foot by having such high dues. We will never have the deep pockets of insurance companies, and therefore we will never have their muscle in a political system that rewards the highest bidder.  That said, there is strength in numbers, and collective action can be very powerful. My problem with APTA, which I rejoined after many years of absence, is their consistently wrong headed direction for the profession. But you can't complain if you don't participate.

Andrea Wolkenberg, Physical Therapy - PT, MA,CKTI,MCMT March 2, 2014 7:13 AM
New York NY

I think as Michael pointed out, it is the cost that is prohibitive. Surely if the APTA cut their fees to a reasonable level it would attract more members, I certainly would join.  I think the revenue generated by membership fees would increase when you feel you are getting value for money.  

Susan Lawrence, Physical Therapist February 17, 2014 9:14 AM
Baltimore MD

I guess the best question to ask yourself is what would happen if the APTA didn't exist? How much time do you take out of your own time to stand in front of congress to advocate for your profession, the therapy cap, direct access, etc? How much would you pay to keep your profession alive?

Ron February 14, 2014 11:07 PM

I understand your concerns about the membership fees.  Remember that you receive discounts and free CEU's with this membership.  The APTA fights for us on Capital Hill.  Yes you are right, who would listen to us when such a small percentage are members.  We wouldn't have this problem if you were a member, or at least donate to the PT-PAC which is the vehicle that fights for your existence.  There are insurance companies out there that want to eliminate payments for treatments done by PTAs.  The APTA is fighting for me.  Mr. PT on the Run-- would you fight for me?

Cynthia, PTA February 14, 2014 9:14 PM
Parma OH

Is the APTA relevant for every PT? How can the APTA work in the best interest of PTs in private practice as well as PTs in POPTs and HOPTs at the same time? It seems as though they have a lot of competing interests.

Joshua February 10, 2014 2:26 PM

There is also "physiotherapy" the equivalent of PT Journal from the UK. Interestingly UK membership in the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) is nearly 95% of all registered professionals in the 4 countries. I happily pay my CSP membership but haven't thought the APTA was worth it for over a decade now.

Good discussion! I'm looking forward to the rest of your month with Lisa.

Dean Metz February 6, 2014 4:55 PM

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