Bill would pierce right-to-work

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By ROBERT MEYEROWITZ

Docs could be made to join advocacy group

Manufacturers such as Boeing are said to be drawn to South Carolina because it’s a right-to-work state, something state political leaders tout. It’s spelled out in state law: “The right of persons to work must not be denied or abridged because of membership or non-membership in a labor union or labor organization.”

Not everyone holds that right to be universal, apparently. In the last session of the General Assembly, and again in this one, Senator Gerald Malloy filed a bill to amend the law, stating “that a physician must be a member of the South Carolina Medical Association to practice medicine in this state.”

For a physician to practice in South Carolina now, he or she must be licensed by the state Board of Medical Examiners in return for an annual fee of $77.50

The Medical Association is a private, non-profit advocacy group. Membership for physicians is $395 a year.

There are somewhere near 11,000 physicians practicing in South Carolina (there were 10,250 in 2014, according to the Association of American Medical Schools). The Medical Association currently has 5,388 members, most of whom are physicians. If Senator Malloy’s bill were to be enacted, the association would likely get another $2 million a year in compulsory dues.

Asked if he could explain the reason for the legislation, Senator Malloy, a Democrat from Darlington, responding by email, said his bill is designed to “initiate… discussion.”

In that regard, apart from The Nerve‘s inquiry, it seems to have failed. Declining to discuss the matter further, Malloy wrote, “Write as appropriate.”

J.C. Nicholson, the Medical Association’s general counsel, speaking by phone, said flatly, “It’s not our idea.”

The Medical Association has no relationship with the bill, Nicholson continued. “We’re not going to do anything to help its passage.” The association would love to have more members, he added, but only voluntarily.

The Medical Association has advocated and lobbied in the past in favor of such things as telemedicine and medical marijuana.

Dr. Henry Jordan, a surgeon in Cheraw, called Malloy’s bill “bad news.” The association, Jordan said, “has some policies that I’m absolutely opposed to, and that’s why I don’t belong.”

In a right-to-work state such as South Carolina, that’s why Jordan doesn’t have to belong — which makes Senator Malloy’s attempt to make him join all the more confounding.

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