To boost its advocacy efforts on behalf of patients and the profession, the AOA has launched its new public policy think tank: The AOA Health Policy Institute (HPI).
The HPI is charged with the formation of evidence-based research, analysis and solutions in support of public policy as it relates to eye and vision health and optometry's essential place in the overall health care delivery system.
The AOA is the leading authority on eye and vision care and an advocate for America's overall health. As primary health care providers, doctors of optometry have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage ocular disorders, diseases and injuries, and systemic diseases that manifest in the eye. As America's family eye doctors, doctors of optometry provide more than two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S.
It has become critical for us to provide our leadership and staff with improved tools and expertise to carry out our mission,said AOA President Christopher J. Quinn, O.D., during his inaugural address at Optometry's Meeting® June 21-25 in Washington, D.C.
"By bringing experts from inside and outside of the profession, we can work carefully to analyze information and evidence and then use that material to guide policy development and advance our profession and patient eye health and vision care," Dr. Quinn said.
Through the delivery of in-person, comprehensive eye examinations, doctors of optometry help ensure precise and healthy vision, identify and treat eye diseases and conditions, and provide early diagnosis of threats to overall health, including hypertension, stroke and diabetes.
AOA's HPI will be under the direction of Steven A. Loomis, O.D., past AOA president. It will be staffed by Rodney Peele, J.D., AOA's associate general counsel for public policy, and AOA experts on eye and vision care, statistics and communication.
The institute will produce tools and information for the public, but is designed specifically to address the needs of policymakers. HPI has generated excitement among AOA's advocacy team, the volunteer structure, state affiliates, and members who have expertise in a variety of policy areas.
"I am pleased to help implement the vision of AOA President Chris Quinn in the development of the new AOA Health Policy Institute," Dr. Loomis says. "The HPI will prove to be very helpful in advancing our patient-centered advocacy efforts utilizing evidence-based research and analysis on optimum patient care."
The HPI kicked off with a flurry, including information about access to eye care for veterans, an explanation of the law and regulations that prohibit discrimination by Medicare Advantage plans, and a summary of AOA's complaint to the Food and Drug Administration about certain online self-testing of vision.
The AOA HPI will take a critical look at access to care and care delivery, the scope of practice for eye doctors, competition in the contact lens market, and much more. Also, the institute will build on and supplement the work begun by the National Commission on Vision and Health (NCVH) a decade ago. A national, non-partisan group of public health leaders—including leading doctors of optometry, the NCVH worked to improve the nation's visual health by helping assure access to vision care as an integrated part of public health programs nationwide.
"Policymakers and the public often need assistance from AOA to better understand how trends and changes in health care policy affect eye health and vision care," Dr. Quinn noted. "The Health Policy Institute will provide that expertise."
Medicare’s latest proposed rule builds on efforts to rein back Medicare Advantage plans with the AOA contributing comments that reiterate the need to eliminate plans’ barriers to care and promote transparency.
Ensuring our nation’s veterans have access to the full range of eye care they need, when and where they need it, has long been a mission for optometry’s advocates. Now, a pair of Veterans Health Administration directives affecting optometry could have far-reaching consequences beyond the nation’s largest integrated health care network.
In a recent one-on-one conversation with Federal Trade Commission staff, the AOA again urges 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.