How you can help advance optometry’s legislative priorities now

How you can help advance optometry’s legislative priorities now

With Congress in recess in August, the AOA is urging federal advocacy leaders to connect with lawmakers back home to help advance optometry's priorities.

"The bottom line is that we need more co-sponsors and more understanding on Capitol Hill of optometry and its role in the health care system."

The AOA sent a grassroots "action pack" memo to more than 500 ODs with close ties to Senate and House members on Aug. 5. The memo summarized key AOA-backed legislation and the importance of driving co-sponsorship on these bills.

The memo highlighted two key bills:

  • H.R. 920/S. 1445, The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Improvement Act, a bill to reinstate ODs into the NHSC student loan repayment and scholarship programs.
  • H.R. 855, The Optometric Equity in Medicaid Act, which would fully recognize doctors of optometry as providers of medical and other health services in Medicaid.

"In spite of the partisan divide in Washington, D.C., which has led to fewer bills being enacted into law than in any previous session of Congress, your efforts have resulted in record numbers of Democrats and Republicans coming together to support optometry's priority bills," the memo said. "The bottom line is that we need more co-sponsors and more understanding on Capitol Hill of optometry and its role in the health care system."

Recently, grassroots efforts have deterred progress on a number of anti-optometry bills, such as H.R. 2817. Introduced by a medical doctor in Congress, the bill sought to repeal the Harkin nondiscrimination provision, which prohibits health plans from discriminating against doctors of optometry on the basis of licensure.

How you can help
The memo outlines several steps ODs can take to help advance future legislation and boost current efforts:

  1. Connect face to face with their respective Senate and House members to thank them for their co-sponsorship of these bills, if they're already sponsors.

  2. If not, urge them to sponsor the legislation.

  3. On another important issue, AOA members should be reporting prescription verification abuses by Internet contact lens sellers, directing them to file any complaints with the Federal Trade Commission. This will help reinforce the AOA's efforts. At a recent hearing in Washington, AOA President David A. Cockrell, O.D., informed a Senate Judiciary panel about the risks of improper contact lens use and the key role ODs play in prescribing and fitting patients with contact lenses that best meet their health needs.

To learn more about this issue, email Matt Willette, the AOA's assistant director for federal government relations.

August 8, 2014

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