UPDATED: AOA, never stronger, takes issue with VSP practices

June 30, 2016
The stakes have never been higher for doctors of optometry and patients.

The AOA has never been stronger, and it's working toward making itself even stronger in the face of threats to the optometric profession and quality patient care.

That is the message from AOA President Steven A. Loomis, O.D., and AOA President-Elect Andrea P. Thau, O.D. On June 24, the week before Optometry's Meeting®, Drs. Loomis and Thau co-signed an electronic message sent to members.

"We have pressure from medicine, pressure from online and mass retailers, pressure from online pseudo-technologies and, of course, pressure from multibillion-dollar vision plans that seek to devalue the care we provide and force us into a race to the bottom," Drs. Loomis and Thau say.

"Especially troubling of late are the misguided policies and priorities of VSP, a company that seems to be arrogantly committing itself to placing its bottom line ahead of doctors' ability to provide full-spectrum, quality care and doctor-patient decision-making," they add.

The AOA mailed a letter on June 27 to VSP Global Chairman of the Board Daniel Mannen, O.D., taking issue with several of the company's corporate practices. The letter was signed by Drs. Loomis and Thau.

In the letter, AOA:

  • Called VSP's Premier Provider program "fundamentally misleading to patients, unfair to doctors, and at odds with the delivery of quality care."
  • Took issue with VSP's frame policy, which requires doctors of optometry to carry VSP-owned frame lines or face a cut in reimbursements.
  • Reiterated AOA's support for Dental and Optometric Care Access Act (H.R. 3323). The legislation, backed by the AOA and the American Dental Association, cracks down on vision plan abuses.

On July 1, VSP announced that it was postponing implementation of the frame policy.

The AOA remains vigilant in advocating for vision plan practices that enable high-quality, patient centered care, and ensuring that vision plans follow all relevant laws and regulations intended to protect doctors of optometry's ability to apply all of their skills, education, and professional judgment in the care provided for patients.

Further, the AOA just produced a Q&A for doctors of optometry on what they should know before signing the VSP Network Doctor Agreement (NDA). The Q&A was created in response to an email sent recently to network doctors asking them to sign an electronic copy of their NDA "to ensure there is no break in service" as a VSP provider.

Note: Whether a doctor of optometry decides to provide services to a particular customer or receive products or services from a particular supplier or provider must be the unilateral decision of that doctor and not the result of conversations with or among competitors. Click here to learn more about AOA's antitrust policy.

How can doctors of optometry help?

  • Ask your member of Congress to support H.R. 3323. Use the AOA Legislative Action Center to contact your representative now.
  • Contribute generously to AOA-PAC, AOA's political action committee, which supports federal candidates who support optometry.

"Our association is strong, and with your increased participation it will become even stronger," Drs. Loomis and Thau say. "The stakes have never been higher for our profession. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, 'We should all hang together or surely, we will all hang separately.'"

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