AOA’s multifaceted COVID-19 response offers immediate crisis relief, recovery assistance
Recognizing the uncertainty facing many doctors of optometry amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the AOA expands its all-out mobilization on behalf of the profession by launching a multifaceted crisis relief and recovery assistance package.
In a letter to AOA membership on March 25, AOA President Barbara L. Horn, O.D., and President-elect William T. Reynolds, O.D., with the full backing and support of the AOA Board of Trustees, outlined an unprecedented plan to assist AOA members and support the profession throughout this pandemic. These immediate actions come as the AOA continues to fight 24/7 for optometry in Washington, D.C., to guarantee that the profession's essential care and physician role is fully recognized in emergency laws and regulations, and to secure at least $1 billion in continuity grants and loans for optometry practices nationwide
"At an especially confusing time, we're cutting through the clutter with up-to-the-minute practice guidance and resources and expanded member benefits," notes Drs. Horn and Reynolds. "We are also spotlighting our frontline care and efforts of colleagues across the country to ease the burdens in local emergency departments."
Citing numerous conversations with affiliate leaders and doctors on the front lines of care, the board unanimously approved a comprehensive, $5.5 million plan to fully assemble the AOA for the crisis currently affecting the profession. In summary, these board actions include:
- Approved immediate AOA dues relief. All AOA dues are waived for two months for all members.
- Approved dues and assessment freeze. AOA membership dues and assessment to be maintained at current levels at least through 2021.
- Directed program reprioritization. The AOA is dedicating an organization-wide response to the immediate crisis-related concerns of doctors and affiliates, extending all AOA advocacy activities (federal, state, payer and media), communications, AOAExcel®, practice tools and more.
- Approved direct affiliate support. The AOA established a $500,000 fund to assist distressed affiliates.
- Establishing long-term relief for doctors. The AOA is working to establish an AOA Foundation Optometry Recovery Fund to aid optometry practices, in partnership with industry friends.
As the current public health situation evolves, the AOA Board of Trustees agreed to continue working closely with affiliates to determine the specific further steps that will be needed in the days, weeks and months ahead. As the world progresses through this time, members will receive additional details to these actions. While this situation is unprecedented, the AOA has the strength, resources, reach, determination and know-how to be the relentless advocate doctors need to help the profession navigate this crisis.
"Equally important, though, is that we are united as one profession, with colleagues committed to helping and supporting colleagues. That's why our powerful message— that we are essential care doctors committed to serving our patients, our communities and our country—will continue to be heard and resonate with policymakers, the news media, payers, our fellow physicians and the public," the letter from Drs. Horn and Reynolds notes.
"As we face this emergency together, our thoughts will remain with you and your loved ones as well as the colleagues, patients and communities we care so deeply about."
The AOA will be communicating additional details regarding the relief plan in the coming weeks.
Access AOA guidance, resources on COVID-19
The AOA continues to closely monitor all developments and actively participate in U.S. public health discussions regarding the COVID-19 response to keep optometry apprised of the latest information and guidance. Doctors of optometry need not only understand the risks and current public health situation but also have the latest clinical recommendations and guidance for informed patient care.
Considering the seriousness and evolving nature of this pandemic, the AOA launched a comprehensive COVID-19 updates page where optometry can quickly locate the latest updates and guidance from the AOA and U.S. public health authorities. This resource page includes:
- The AOA HPI's regularly updated statement, "Doctors of Optometry and COVID-19" and FAQ.
- AOA advocacy updates on current federal issues affecting optometry.
- AOA guidance on rendering telehealth services to Medicare patients during this pandemic.
- Business solutions through AOAExcel.
- CDC and WHO guidance for health care providers.
- Current developments and situation reports on COVID-19.
The AOA supports the CDC's patient care guidance issued March 17 to combat further community spread and a wider outbreak, and reaffirms that doctors of optometry are frontline providers of essential care in this nation. Based on the immediate health needs of a patient, doctors of optometry can and should use their professional judgment to determine the timing and course of care, including assessing patient-expressed urgency, necessary preventive care and the monitoring and refilling of prescriptions.
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