Optometrists earn $1 billion under Medicare in 2012

(Former U.S. Congressman Robert Whittaker, O.D., hands then AOA Immediate Past President Joe E. Ellis, O.D., the gavel used in the U.S. House of Representatives to signal final passage of historic legislation recognizing ODs as Medicare physicians, June 2011 at Optometry's Meeting.)

In 2012, optometrists earned more than $1 billion in reimbursements under Medicare. It's the first time optometrists hit that milestone in a single year, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Complete 2012 data is not yet available. However, the CMS also estimates 32,404 optometrists saw Medicare patients during 2011 and provided more than 11 million services.

"AOA's two-decade battle to win full inclusion was well worth the effort."

"More than ever, it is evident that AOA's two-decade battle to win full inclusion of optometrists in Medicare was well worth the effort," said AOA Federal Relations Committee Chair Roger Jordan, O.D. "Recognition of optometrists as physicians under Medicare—as well as subsequent recognition of optometrists as providers of medical eye care under other public and private health plans—has clearly resulted in increased revenues that have helped to maintain the economic viability of optometric practices across the nation."

More important, these efforts have helped ensure access to a full range of primary eye care for the nation's rapidly growing population of older adults, Dr. Jordan said. He added that the vast majority of Medicare reimbursement comes from medical eye care rather than eyewear. Eyewear is covered by Medicare only under very limited circumstances.

The data was released as the CMS celebrated the 50th anniversary of Medicare this summer.

"The landmark data announced by the CMS last month illustrates the importance of AOA efforts to ensure optometrists are included in all public and private health programs," Dr. Jordan said. "Current efforts to ensure optometrists will see patients as part of accountable care organizations or under health insurance marketplace plans could, in the not-too-distant future, prove just as important."

October 21, 2013

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