15 advocacy highlights of 2023

December 18, 2023
Thanks to advocates, optometry continues to fight and win.
Magnifying glass over a page that says advocacy

The AOA’s mission is to advocate for the profession and serve doctors of optometry in meeting the eye care needs of the public. The tireless work of optometry’s advocates over the past year saw wins over abusive vision plans, defeat over discriminatory ‘not-a-doctor’ bills, a continued fight to expand the role of optometrists at an understaffed VA, and much more.

Take a look back at the advocacy highlights of 2023.

  1. U.S. House investigative committee calls for scrutiny of vision plans

In August, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chair James Comer, R-Ky., issued a request for information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to conduct oversight of the agency’s role in preventing unfair and harmful marketplace practices, especially considering consolidation in the vision insurance market. The investigative committee’s probe tracks with ongoing inquiries into harm being caused by increasing market power and business practices of large pharmacy benefit managers.

  1. New Texas law halts vision plans’ anti-competitive, monopolistic behaviors

Texas optometrists penned the next chapter in affiliates’ vision plan advocacy as novel, comprehensive reforms that promote fair valuation regain independent practice controls and ultimately seek to level the playing field against plans’ outsized influence.

  1. Optometry’s wins over abusive vision plans stacking up

 The AOA and affiliates in Illinois and Georgia scored wins against vision plan abuses in a year in which doctors of optometry made inroads across the country. When all else failed, including talks with the plans and appeals to one state’s insurance commissioner, affiliates did the hard work of helping push through bills in their legislatures that address the abuses.

  1. DOC Access Act gains Senate companion

With more support than ever, the DOC Access Act (H.R. 1385) was reintroduced on March 7 in the U.S. House by Reps. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., and Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y. And on May 3, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., introduced S. 1424. AOA priority legislation, the DOC Access Act has made steady progress through Congress since its original introduction in 2015. 

  1. Texas’ vision plan law takes effect, court challenge continues

 Vision benefit managers and health plans operating within Texas must now abide by new legal requirements taking effect as optometry’s advocates anticipate further court challenges over the “first-in-the-nation” vision plan reform law.

  1. Doctors of optometry in Texas and Nevada build bulwark against vision plan abuses

Doctors of optometry in Texas and Nevada out-worked, out-organized and out-witted a better-funded opposition to realize legislation meant to overcome abuses by vision plans. The biggest opponent? The National Association of Vision Care Plans, which describes itself as a “voice for the managed vision care industry.”

  1. CMS takes aim at Medicare Advantage plans misrepresenting vision benefits

In a proposed rule issued on Nov. 6, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published its Contract Year 2025 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs that would implement certain “guardrails” to protect beneficiaries and promote a competitive MA marketplace. Among those proposals, CMS specifically looks to increase utilization and appropriateness of supplemental benefits, such as vision care. Such proposals reflect concerns flagged by the AOA and other physician and patient organizations concerning MA plans in recent years.

  1. AOA, state affiliate tracking California lawsuit alleging VSP monopolistic practices

The AOA is following a California-based lawsuit, brought by Total Vision, which supports a group of independent optometric practices there, that accuses the country’s largest vision benefits manager, VSP (Vision Service Plan), of using its huge leverage to “strong arm” and bully it into accepting business conditions that threaten its very survival.

  1. AOA and state affiliates rally to decry and defeat discriminatory ‘not-a-doctor’ bills

Amid historic gains for optometry, the AOA and seven state affiliates battled a spate of legislation potentially seeking to block, limit or discourage doctors of optometry from being referenced as doctors and physicians in their respective states and threatening to undermine the profession’s progress.

  1. DeSantis decision delivers historic win for Florida optometrists and patients

The Florida governor’s veto of far-reaching “not-a-doctor/physician” bill marked a high-profile rejection of organized medicine’s effort to derail AOA/affiliates’ drive nationwide toward optometric scope expansion.

  1. AOA and AFOS: ‘Cut through the noise’ and empower licensed doctors of optometry to provide greater access to care to veterans

Between a congressional hearing Sept. 19, a meeting with lawmakers and staff from both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees Wednesday, and a VA listening session, AOA and Association of Armed Forces and Federal Optometric Services advocates unapologetically took their fight to every corner—to supporters and naysayers alike—over the VA’s creation of new national standards of practice.

  1. Retail optical lobbying group name change allays AOA, affiliate concerns

National and state optometric association leaders, long concerned about confusion being created in policy advocacy circles by a lobbying group comprised of major optical retailers, applauded a notable change in direction as the former “National Association of Optometrists and Opticians” announced it is now known as the National Association of Retail Optical Companies (NAROC).

  1. AOA: No letting up on Eyeglass Rule advocacy

In a one-on-one conversation with Federal Trade Commission staff, the AOA urged the agency to reconsider a proposal requiring patients to sign forms attesting that they have received copies of their eyeglass prescriptions. For small-business optometric practices, the requirement would be burdensome from a paperwork perspective and unnecessary given that consumers are more empowered than ever, the AOA says—again.

  1. Affiliates, AOA share forward-thinking strategies for optometry’s advocates

AOA State Government Relations Center Regional Advocacy Meetings convened affiliate leaders and advocates from across the nation to collaborate and build formidable grassroots strategies for continued legislative success.

  1. Hubble Contacts concerns grow after woman loses eye, AOA asks where’s enforcement?

Hubble Contacts faces legal woes anew after a customer loses her eye, alleging product liability, with the AOA mounting pressure on federal regulatory and health agencies to take “real action” that keeps Americans safe.

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