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New bill, old guise threatens doctors and patients once again

Attempting to undermine patients' trust in the quality care that doctors of optometry provide, newly introduced, albeit familiar, legislation seeks new federal control over how doctors of optometry and others practice and provide care.

"We’ve beat back this effort before and we’ll do so again with your help. Please commit now to working more closely with AOA in this fight."

Introduced by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), H.R. 3928, the so-called "Truth in Healthcare Marketing Act," is anything but, purportedly targeting "deceptive or misleading" advertising and representation in the provision of health care services. However, such legislation is nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on doctors of optometry and others AOA has fought-and defeated-multiple times before.

Ostensibly, such legislation directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to seek out and punish health care providers who purportedly misrepresent whether such person holds a state health care license or misrepresents their education, training, degree, license or clinical expertise. The bill also calls on the FTC to report any findings back to Congress.

However, the AOA has repeatedly taken a strong stance against such legislation, troubled that the "truth and transparency" bill fundamentally lacks both. The AOA contends such legislation is less concerned about bolstering public health and patient navigation than it is about attempting to confuse the public with the end goal of limiting competition among qualified providers.

"In true Washington, D.C., fashion, hiding just beneath the benign-sounding 'Truth in Healthcare Marketing Act' lies an organized medicine and ophthalmology plot aimed at nothing less than demeaning the profession, confusing the public and trying to slow optometry's growing role in American health care," says Christopher J. Quinn, O.D., AOA president. "Through the Bucshon Bill, organized medicine and ophthalmology are aiming to eliminate our physician and doctor status, confuse patients and the public regarding our education and abilities, and enlist the federal government in medicine's long-sought goal of limiting competition from doctors of optometry and others."

In fact, this retread bill is nearly identical to such anti-optometry legislation originally backed by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Academy of Ophthalmology, and championed by the discredited Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), with every Congress since 2006. The bill has been closely linked to the AMA's Scope of Practice Partnership, a national public relations campaign that targeted optometry and sought to roll back patient choice and other access laws.

AOA re-engaging coalition

Such legislation previously raised red flags among not only health care provider groups, but also policy experts. In 2011, the well-known, Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation took a stance against the bill as an egregious, unnecessary governmental overstep that "criminalized competition," while in 2013, the Competitive Enterprise Institute labeled the bill "anti-business and anti-consumer."

In the past, AOA mobilized its grassroots network of doctor and student advocates to effectively educate lawmakers of the legislation's true intent, and now, AOA is working once again to do the same. The AOA is actively re-engaging the previous coalition of organizations that spoke out against these "truth in health care advertising" bills, as well as continuing to meet with Capitol Hill lawmakers and their staffs to alert them to the true intent behind this benign-sounding legislation.

"We've beat back this effort before and we'll do so again with your help," Dr. Quinn says. "Please commit now to working more closely with AOA in this fight, through investing in AOA-PAC and through working with us to reach out directly to your U.S. House member. Together, we'll fight and win once again. For the sake of our patients and practices, we must."

Help support AOA advocacy

All eyes are on health care, making it increasingly important for legislators to understand the issues facing the profession and the patient care that optometry provides. One of the most effective ways for doctors and students to participate in the political process is by supporting AOA-PAC.

AOA members also are urged to contact their U.S. House members and urge that they oppose H.R. 3928. One of the easiest ways to connect with your lawmakers is through the AOA's Online Legislative Action Center.

October 31, 2017

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