AOA’s advocacy at ‘top of their game’
Optometry's advocates know AOA is recognized among the nation's most effective, elite advocacy organizations in Washington, D.C., but once again, capital insiders publicly validate the lengths AOA goes for the profession.
At a time when federal health care policy and regulation remain divisive political conversations, AOA continues to deftly navigate this tumultuous landscape and advocate for optometry's essential, expanding role in health care and safeguarding the vital doctor-patient relationship.
As AOA President Samuel D. Pierce, O.D., noted in a member-wide communication regarding the decision by a federal judge in Texas to declare the entire 2010 national health care law (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or ACA), AOA has delivered significant advocacy milestones in recent weeks and months. AOA has accomplished these through an "active presence in the nation's capital, our Future Practice Initiative to help modernize state laws, our relentless emphasis on payer accountability, our regulatory stamina which led to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' affirmation of the importance of comprehensive eye examinations, our 24/7 media advocacy and nationwide Think About Your Eyes advertising campaign, and more. "
Additionally, AOA and advocates' determined pressure on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has seen more than 100 U.S. Senators and House members weigh-in and encourage the commission to abandon its overly burdensome, unnecessary Contact Lens Rule proposal in favor of stricter regulatory enforcement among abusing contact lens sellers. Those efforts range from official statements and letters to Congressional report directives, appropriations language and direct panel questioning of FTC staff.
Although 2018 was a politically volatile year in the nation's capital, the AOA built new support for its bi-partisan initiatives and delivered big results for optometry—and that work hasn't gone unnoticed. In a recent article from the American political news outlet, The Hill, AOA was recognized as one of the nation's foremost, effective advocacy organizations. Ranking the "most distinguished and accomplished professionals" in the trenches of the "nation's most consequential political and policy battles," The Hill named AOA Director of Congressional Relations Matt Willette and AOA Associate Director of Government Affairs Chase Cannon among 2018's top lobbyists.
Dr. Pierce says it's no secret to the profession how effective the AOA's advocacy team is in Washington, D.C., and such recognition only confirms what AOA members and volunteers have known all along.
"Team AOA—our state associations, hard-working Board of Trustees, dedicated corps of volunteers, committed doctor and student members and outstanding staff in St. Louis and Washington, DC—is a respected nationwide force for health and vision, and policymakers and the media in the nation's capital and state capitals clearly know it," Dr. Pierce says. "Of course, while recognition and accolades are always nice, our focus remains on the battles ahead and the active efforts of anti-optometry groups who, if allowed, would put our patients at risk and undermine our essential and expanding role in health care."
Barbara L. Horn, O.D., AOA president-elect, concurred and said the recognition is a testament to the examples set by AOA Executive Director Jon Hymes and Associate Executive Director Renee Brauns. Under their leadership, AOA has been recognized before as having one of the most effective, respected advocacy operations in the nation's capital.
"Matt Willette and Chase Cannon's talents have benefited the AOA and our patients, and their superior teamwork has rightfully been acknowledged by The Hill's Top Lobbyists of 2018," Dr. Horn says. "I could not be more proud of our entire AOA team, and sincerely congratulate Mr. Willette and Mr. Cannon on their incredibly well-deserved honor."
Build on the momentum
The AOA takes seriously its responsibility of advocating for the profession. From Capitol Hill to countless federal agencies, AOA fights for fair treatment and improved access for patients and the AOA members on which they rely for their comprehensive eye care. At the heart of AOA advocacy are doctors and students who are helping to educate and inform their elected officials. Here's how you can take part:
Advocate directly with lawmakers.
AOA's newly upgraded online legislative action center gives doctors instant, mobile-friendly access to the priority federal issues that AOA needs you to support. With greater detail and insights about legislators, doctors have all the information they need to make contact.
Join AOA's new Federal Advocacy Representative leadership network.
This new program helps serve as an on-the-ground "go-to" representative for all things federal advocacy in their states, including peer-to-peer fundraising, optometry-only events and AOA grassroots efforts. Additionally, consider AOA's Federal Keypersons Network to help keep lawmakers informed about optometry's priorities. With a new crop of lawmakers coming to Congress, the profession will need new AOA Federal Keypersons with close relationships to incoming lawmakers.
Help keep AOA-PAC an advocacy force.
The second of two Medicare sequester cuts took effect July 1 with up to 2.75% of Medicare physicians’ pay affected in 2022. Even more significant cuts are scheduled in 2023 without Congressional action.
AOA-led effort builds Congressional support for the DOC Access Act, delivering in-person briefings for members of Congress and strong backing from the American Dental Association and national pro-patient groups.
Already the subject of one complaint to the IRS, the National Association of Optometrists and Opticians (NAOO), a lobbying “front” for large optical retailers, was called out to legislators for deceptive tactics and seeking a self-serving overhaul of patient health and safety standards. The AOA follows up on winning activism of South Carolina doctors with a new push for a federal investigation of NAOO tax exempt status.