AOA works 24/7 to keep optometry prioritized in ACA debate

AHCA, Omnibus bill pass U.S. House with favorable provisions; AOA remains vigilant

Debate over the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) future, and in turn that of American health care, continues unresolved in the U.S. Senate, giving AOA doctors an opportunity to connect with legislators while they consider these important reforms.

 Despite a Republican-majority U.S. House of Representatives, the proposed ACA repeal and replace bill, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017, received a rocky start. After initially being pulled for failing to garner enough support, the AHCA was brought for a vote weeks later and passed with narrow approval.

The AOA is committed to working with congressional leaders and the administration to improve the current system.

The AOA worked 24/7 to ensure optometry's priorities and patients' safety continued unabated in the House version of the health care reform legislation. As such, AOA successfully advocated for preservation of the provider nondiscrimination law, as well as a provision that funds states to promote access to preventive services, including eye and vision care.

 Additionally, the House version of the AHCA would repeal the medical device excise tax, increase taxes on Health Savings Accounts and impose limits on contributions to Flexible Spending Accounts. The AHCA also grants states the authority to reshape requirements of ACA's essential health benefits, including pediatric vision care, and would allow states to change Medicaid eligibility thresholds.  

The AOA continues to monitor the progression of any health care reform legislation and advocate for optometry's priorities. Proactively, AOA President Andrea P. Thau, O.D., met with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to advance those priorities.  

"The AOA is committed to working with congressional leaders and the administration to improve the current system," Dr. Thau says. "While we are still assessing the impact that the complete bill and potential committee-level amendments would have on our patients, we are pleased to see that the bill includes key provisions recognizing that expanded access to eye health and vision care through in-person, comprehensive eye examinations helps ensure early diagnosis of a range of threats to a patient's health, including diabetes, hypertension and stroke."  

The AHCA now heads to the Senate where uncertainty remains over how that chamber may alter or even pen their own health care legislation. However, despite lawmakers' differences regarding AHCA, AOA is committed to ensuring optometry's priority messages aren't lost in the fray, including:

  1. Safeguarding doctors' of optometry full physician recognition and inclusion in physician-level programs;
  2. Upholding existing laws that assure access to in-person, comprehensive eye examinations, including the health plan-based pediatric essential benefit and the ban on discrimination by ERISA and other plans against doctors of optometry on the basis of licensure;  
  3. Ensuring patients' safety from unsafe telehealth schemes and services; and,  
  4. Ceasing abusive, anti-doctor health and vision plan policies, as reflected by the provisions of the AOA and American Dental Association-backed, bipartisan Dental and Optometric Care Access Act.


Aside from the AHCA's approval, the House also approved an Omnibus Spending Bill with language that may pressure the Health Resources and Services Administration to take steps toward including doctors of optometry within the National Health Service Corps on a state level. That bill also contained language directing the Federal Trade Commission to prioritize patient safety in contact lens issues.
 
Join the fight: AOA on Capitol Hill     

As America's health care system is yet again under the microscope, it's essential that optometry puts up a dedicated advocacy force on Capitol Hill. This June, AOA will host the profession's largest advocacy event leading up to and during Optometry's Meeting®, June 21-25, in Washington, D.C., and AOA needs you.   

The inaugural AOA+, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Vision, will bring together more than 1,500 of the nation's brightest students and new doctors to engage this up-and-coming generation in the importance of professional advocacy. Concurrently, AOA on Capitol Hill is optometry's chance for a show of strength as the profession's champions meet with their legislators in a staple of AOA advocacy.   

Crucially, now is the time to support AOA-PAC, the most effective way for doctors of optometry to participate in the political process. 

To reserve your spot for AOA on Capitol Hill, or to get more information, contact Tess Milliorn in the AOA Washington office at 1.800.365.2219 or tmilliorn@aoa.org

June 9, 2017

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