Hundreds of doctors, students and paraoptometrics participate in optometry’s premier, virtual advocacy event
WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 9, 2020) – The American Optometric Association (AOA) is mobilizing hundreds of doctors of optometry, students and paraoptometric professionals across the country to participate in a historic, Virtual AOA on Capitol Hill. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the single-largest annual advocacy event and the centerpiece of optometry’s national lobbying efforts was moved from early 2020 to Sept. 9-10, and aims to raise awareness around optometry’s policy priorities and reinforce doctors of optometry essential role in health care.
“With so many pressing issues before the profession, this year’s event may prove to be among the most consequential in the meeting’s history,” says AOA President, William T. Reynolds, O.D. “While nothing can replace the in-depth and in-person advocacy that has become a hallmark of our AOA on Capitol Hill event, this year we’re looking to take full advantage of this key opportunity to meet virtually with hundreds of U.S. House and Senate leaders just as Congress is considering new virus relief legislation, a potential fix to unworkable Contact Lens Rule changes, and addressing worsening vision plan abuses.”
The tremendous growth of AOA on Capitol Hill—from fewer than 200 doctors attending a decade ago to more than 500 doctors and students last year—is a key reason why AOA continues to build a track record of wins and why the organization has been recognized as one of the most effective and respected lobbying groups in the nation's capital. Additionally, for the first time in its history, paraoptometric professionals will be able to participate and lend their unique perspective to the meeting.
“Now, more than ever, AOA needs the optometric community to come together and amplify our collective voice,” says Dr. Reynolds. “It is absolutely critical that policy leaders fully understand the wide range of essential eye and vision health care services that doctors of optometry provide to patients each and every day as well as the very real challenges that we face in delivering needed diagnosis and care to millions of Americans in need.”
AOA's federal priority issues that are being addressed during several meetings with lawmakers and staff include:
- Convince congress to intervene in the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) flawed final rule amending the Contact Lens Rule, which will require prescribers effective Oct. 16, 2020, to obtain signed acknowledgement forms indicating patients' receipt of contact lens prescriptions, and to keep record of that patient confirmation for at least three years. Despite years of opposition from the AOA, other physician organizations, consumer groups, members of Congress and industry, federal regulators decided to move forward with changes that aren't substantiated by federal complaints data and at a time when the tens of thousands of small health care practices affected by this ruling are coping with the global coronavirus pandemic.
- Make the contact lens prescription verification process safer and easier to navigate for patients. With the growing use of disruptive and unreliable prescription verification robocalls, the health and safety of patients are increasingly being put at risk. Verification robocalls have become the favorite tool of unscrupulous online contact lens sellers looking to sidestep patient safety protections now in law in the hopes of selling contact lenses that were never prescribed and fitted by an eye doctor. H.R. 3975, the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act, would eliminate the use of prescription verification robocalls and would make it easier for patients to digitally verify and receive the contact lens prescribed to them by their eye doctor.
- Rally industry allies against continued anti-patient, anti-doctor vision plan abuses. Vision plans have contributed to maintaining a stagnant reimbursement environment and continue to introduce policies that could negatively impact doctors of optometry across the country.
- Muster support for the bipartisan bill, R. 3762, the Dental and Optometric Care Access Act (DOC Access Act), which would prevent ERISA and other federally regulated vision and health plans from placing limits on a doctor's choice of labs and lenses, as well as levying mandates on noncovered services and materials. Additionally, the DOC Access Act would limit plan contracts to two years, unless the doctor chooses to extend, and includes a private right of action provision that allows doctors to take offending plans directly to court.
- Guarantee, amid the COVID-19 crisis, that the profession's essential care and physician role continues to be fully recognized in emergency laws and regulations. About 80% of doctors of optometry provided urgent and emergency care to more than 200,000 people in a single month during the early stages of the pandemic, the AOA’s Health Policy Institute found. The analysis also revealed that 60% of those patients treated in office by doctors of optometry—many for medical issues, including eye infections, removal of foreign objects and other sight-threatening eye injuries—would have otherwise sought care at an emergency department or urgent care center.
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The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America's family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual's overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find a doctor of optometry near you, visit aoa.org.
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