Rethinking Eye Care

Rethinking eye care

AOA's 2014 Optometrist of the Year, Peter M. Agnone, O.D., has achieved great success advocating for the profession. Thanks to the advocacy work of the AOA and state affiliates such as the Michigan Optometric Association (MOA), a major policy change by Ford Motor Corporation helps employees gain access to medical eye care next year. An MOA Third Party Committee member, Dr. Agnone says the change is a step forward for the profession.

In an excerpt from an interview with AOA Focus, Dr. Agnone discusses the progress optometry has made in getting recognized as providers of medical eye care. He also describes how optometry's efforts through the rethink Eyecare campaign led to more integrated eye care for thousands of auto industry employees and retirees in Michigan.

Why is the rethink Eyecare campaign so important?
In the past, we've had issues with getting access for our patients to see ODs for medical eye care. The purpose of rethink Eyecare is to bring to the attention of insurance companies and medical directors the advantages of including ODs as providers in their health care plans. This is something that's been catching on with some of these decision makers—realizing how the preventive eye exam can determine not only diseased conditions of the eye, but systemic problems that exist, too.

What were the biggest challenges in getting the auto industry to more fully integrate eye care benefits?
The auto companies, because they're self-funded, could pick and choose what providers they wanted. What I've been instrumental in doing is informing them of the benefits of utilizing optometry and allowing ODs to join their medical panels. Incorporating the vision benefit into the health care plan is something General Motors has done and is now being considered by the rest of the industry. Some have been utilizing optometry for the medical aspect for their workers, and that's a big change from what it was three or four years ago.

What was optometry's most recent win in Michigan?
We defined what constitutes a legal prescription. We also defined who could write for a legal eyeglass prescription, whether it is for contacts or glasses. We put that right into the hands of optometry and ophthalmology. They're the ones who are licensed and trained to do this and they're the ones who should be doing it. And now, in Michigan, they're the only ones who can do it.

What national goals do you think optometry should focus on?
I'm working with the AOA and the Michigan Optometric Association, as well as our state and national legal people, on trying to get more specific language with relation to the Harkin amendment, the landmark provider nondiscrimination provision. This is to try to clean up the interpretation and get to the intent of the law so that states will be able to utilize the Harkin amendment in situations where discrimination is occurring [with respect to] access to optometry for medical eye care.

Photograph by J. Kyle Keener

December 11, 2014

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