Optometry makes push for inclusion in GME overhaul

Optometry makes push for inclusion in GME overhaul

The AOA anticipates that Congress or federal agency officials may soon consider changes to the graduate medical education (GME) system. When this happens, the AOA will be at the table fighting for optometry-and inclusion in this program.

"We agree with the IOM's assertion that the GME system should be updated and restructured."

This past summer, the Institute of Medicine released a report, suggesting that Congress revise Medicare law and regulation to transition GME payments toward a more accountable, performance-based system. Although GME funds come from several sources, Medicare provides most of the publicly financed funds for residency training and fellowship programs.

A letter sent to IOM officials by the AOA and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) on Oct. 21 commended the IOM for making these recommendations. As part of this overhaul, the groups asked IOM to support the inclusion of ODs in these programs.

The letter is available to AOA members.

"We agree with the IOM's assertion that the GME system should be updated and restructured to better meet the demands of our nation's health care needs," stated the letter, which was signed by AOA President David A. Cockrell, O.D., and ASCO President Jennifer Coyle, O.D.

IOM recommended the establishment of two new GME funding streams: an Operational fund to support current programs, and a Transformation fund that would expand the GME program to new service areas and specialties. "The IOM also recommends a targeted investment in health services with a demonstrated need, as opposed to a general call for more GME slots," the AOA/ASCO letter stated.

Demand for eye care is on the rise
Such investments should include eye care services, the letter indicated. AOA and ASCO stressed that the aging of the population and the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansions, including the pediatric eye exam benefit, will drive up comprehensive eye and vision care needs over the next two decades.

Yet, shortages now exist among eye care professionals in rural and other medically underserved areas, the letter noted.

The IOM's proposed Transformation Fund aims to look in new directions to help meet current and future health demands.

The hope is this fund's activities would "recognize the value and benefits to the public of optometric residency programs through support for optometry's inclusion in a restructured GME program," Dr. Coyle said in a statement.

Optometry residency training programs have already proven their value in VA hospitals, the letter noted.

October 28, 2014

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