Joint conference builds on wins, sets stage for future victories

Optometry was front and center on Capitol Hill in September. More than 600 AOA doctors and students, third-party experts, and state leaders gathered in the nation's capital to build on the profession's recent legislative and regulatory gains in Washington, D.C.

At the jointly held AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference and State Legislative and Third Party National Conference, attendees participated in meetings on Capitol Hill, talks with top Obama administration officials implementing the new health care law, and discussions led by optometry's authorities in federal, state and third-party advocacy.

"Never before has health care needed optometry more than today," Barry J. Barresi, O.D., Ph.D., the AOA's executive director, told conference participants. "Never before has optometry needed the AOA more than today."

Insider insight

Featured speakers from Congress offered advice to attendees. Sen. Rand Paul, M.D., (R-Ky.) addressed a standing-room-only crowd on the need to make tough decisions in health care spending.

Sen. Paul's appearance before optometry signals it as an important stop as he ponders a run for the presidency.

"We have to figure out how to get a better solution for everyone," Sen. Paul said.

And Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) offered volunteers tips on how to be heard in Washington.

"Your mere presence is the most convincing thing," Maffei said. He added that advocates should not be disappointed if they end up speaking with congressional staffers rather than members; staffers often have the most knowledge about important issues.

Optometry's top priorities

AOA leaders rallied attendees--referred to as optometry's "boots on the ground"--to support top legislative priorities.

"The AOA continues to make the voice of optometry heard in our nation's capital thanks to the willingness of member doctors and students to take the profession's message directly to our lawmakers on Capitol Hill," said AOA President Mitchell T. Munson, O.D. "This year's legislative priorities are focused on our continued commitment to gain equity in Medicaid, inclusion in the National Health Service Corp and defeating anti-optometry initiatives."

Optometry-specific legislation now before Congress include the Optometric Equity in Medicaid Act (H.R. 855) and the National Health Service Corps Improvement Act (H.R. 920 and S. 1445).

AOA frontline advocates also discussed the need to safeguard and expand the profession's most recent wins, including comprehensive pediatric eye health coverage and the Harkin law.

Unveiling the AOA-PAC app

At the conference, the AOA-PAC unveiled a new mobile app that aims to increase engagement and ease of use. The app is available on both Apple and Android platforms by searching the app stores for "AOA-PAC."

Beekeeper Group developer Justin Kutner demonstrated the app's cutting-edge features:

  • Video gallery
  • Social media sharing
  • Latest advocacy news
  • An action center
  • Congressional directory
  • Mobile donations

Addressing joint state and third-party issues

Prior to the Congressional Conference, more than 200 state affiliate leaders gathered to discuss emerging topics at the state level at the 2013 State Legislative and Third Party National Conference. This is the third meeting of both state legislative and third-party leaders to discuss joint issues facing optometrists such as how to fight discriminatory practices by health plans, Medicaid advocacy, scope of practice issues and dealing with kiosks and online eyeglasses sales.

In addition, attendees heard from Norman Ward, M.D., about how optometry works within an accountable care organization (ACO). Dr. Ward is the executive medical director for Accountable Care, Fletcher Allen Health Care, and executive medical director, OneCare Vermont, an ACO.

Click here for more information on the 2013 AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference and State Legislative and Third Party National Conference.

To find out how to become more involved in federal advocacy--including joining the AOA Federal Keyperson Program or becoming an AOA-PAC investor--contact the AOA Washington office team at 800-365-2219 or

September 17, 2013

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