The APA Practice Organization Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP) and the APA Practice Organization Board of Directors are implementing some changes for 2005 in the annual assessment of APA's licensed-practitioner members.
In the past, licensed psychologists paid the assessment beginning in their third year of APA membership. Starting with APA's 2005 dues year, all APA members who are licensed psychologists will be billed the assessment, regardless of their length of APA membership, albeit at a reduced fee for newly licensed psychologists. In another change, more part-time practitioners will qualify for reduced payment. And the name itself will change--from Special Assessment to Practice Assessment.
According to APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Russ Newman, PhD, JD, one important thing does not change: the $110 fee billed to applicable APA members. This amount has not been modified since 1998.
In addition to their APA dues, APA members who are licensed psychologists providing services in the health or mental health fields, or who supervise those who do, pay the annual assessment to the Practice Organization. Prior to 2001, members paid the assessment directly to APA.
The Special Assessment began in the mid-1980s. According to Newman, the changes now being implemented modernize the assessment so it reflects a health-services delivery system and practice environment that are vastly different today than 20 years ago.
One consequence of the changes is that services supported by the assessment will now be accessible to newly licensed psychologists. Newman said this will allow the Practice Organization to better serve the needs of the newest generation of psychologists, in addition to the roughly 40,000 APA member practitioners who already pay the assessment.
Assessment monies help fund initiatives of the APA Practice Organization that specifically benefit APA's licensed-practitioner members. Established in 2001, the Practice Organization is a companion to APA whose 501c(6) tax status enables it to provide additional amounts and types of advocacy on behalf of professional psychology beyond what APA legally is permitted to provide.
In the past, licensed members often expressed surprise when they received a bill for the Special Assessment as they began their third year of APA membership. Because of the two-year gap in billing for new members, they generally were unaware of the Practice Organization's efforts being made on their behalf or believed they already were getting services supported by the assessment.
"We had a harder time keeping connected with psychologists in their first couple years of licensure because they were not a part of the assessment system," Newman said. "In addition, now there won't be any confusion about whether these newly licensed practitioners are getting services through the Practice Organization when they join the association."
Beginning in 2005, APA members in their first two years of licensure will pay a nominal, graduated assessment fee--$25 in the first year, and $75 in the second. The $110 level applies to members beginning in their third year of licensure.
Another of the changes means that greater numbers of part-time practitioners become eligible for reduced payment. In the past, only full-time faculty who provided fewer than five hours of health-related services each week qualified for a reduced assessment. Now, anyone who provides that amount may take the reduction--even if they aren't academics. According to Janet Ciuccio, assistant executive director for new business and constituent operations in the Practice Directorate, this change benefits practitioners in a variety of circumstances, for example, those who are taking time to care for their children.
Since the Special Assessment's inception, APA members in independent practice with the highest incomes have been assessed a "second-tier" fee. At press time, CAPP was continuing to evaluate the tier system for possible changes.
The Practice Organization, note its officials, will continue to use assessment monies to support a wide variety of ongoing advocacy and other activities on behalf of professional psychology. These continuing activities include: federal legislative advocacy on issues including managed-care reform, mental health insurance parity and patient records privacy; lawsuits to challenge harmful managed-care practices; and changes in Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes and reimbursement policies that help psychologists get paid for the broad range of professional services they provide.