Harkin law helps Ford Motor employees gain access to medical eye care

Harkin law helps Ford Motor employees gain access to medical eye care

"This success is a testimony of the value of the AOA and its affiliates to all optometrists across the nation."

In a major policy change, Ford Motor employees are joining other auto workers in gaining access to medical eye care next year.

The AOA and the Michigan Optometric Association (MOA) announced this change on Dec. 3. It means that Ford workers and their dependents will have access to the full scope of eye health and vision care services provided by optometrists, according to a statement from the AOA.

The change goes into effect Jan. 1 and applies to all Ford Motor Corporation active salary and hourly United Auto Workers and their dependents, as well as retired Ford salary workers under the age of 65, and their dependents. Retired hourly UAW Ford workers under 65 and their dependent's health care are a separate benefit of the UAW Medical Trust.

Under Ford's previous policy, only the retired hourly UAW workers were able to receive medical eye care from ODs due to their coverage under the medical trust, which has allowed access to ODs.

Harkin drives policy change
The Ford decision is a direct result of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) provider nondiscrimination provision (referred to as the Harkin law). The AOA and the Iowa Optometric Association worked tirelessly with Washington lawmakers to ensure that this law was included in the ACA, according to MOA Third Party member Peter Agnone, O.D. (read about Dr. Agnone's third-party advocacy work in the November/December 2014 edition of AOA Focus).

The provision takes steps to ensure that ODs are fully recognized by health plans, providing greater access to eye care for patients.

The MOA for years had been trying to convince Ford Motor to allow their workers to see optometrists for medical eye care, Dr. Agnone says. The MOA saw the ACA's Harkin law "as a new and different approach to the Ford problem," he adds.

Legal counsel for the AOA and MOA were deeply involved and instrumental in Ford Motor's policy change. The combination of the Harkin law and solid arguments presented by the AOA and MOA finally convinced Ford it needed to make this revision to avoid being in violation of the Harkin law's nondiscrimination language, Dr. Agnone says.

Ford's acceptance of full-scope optometry as defined by the AOA, is historic, says AOA President David A. Cockrell, O.D. "It's proof positive that the AOA's advocacy efforts to enact the Harkin law have produced a game changer for our members and the millions of new patients who stand to gain access to medical eye care through our practices."

This announcement follows similar decisions by General Motors, Chrysler LLC, and the UAW Medical Trust to provide medical eye care to employees.

These results "illustrate dramatically the value and power of the AOA and the state affiliates working together to move the profession of optometry forward," Dr. Agnone says.

December 5, 2014

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