AOA state advocacy, third-party conference tackles important issues facing profession

May 19, 2012

From left, AOA Associate Director of Advocacy and Affiliate Outreach Brian Reuwer, State Government Relations Committee member and Kansas Optometric Association Executive Director Gary Robbins, and Third Party Center Executive Committee member Harvey Richman, O.D., discuss health insurance exchanges.

The 2012 AOA State Legislative and Third Party National Conference, held in conjunction with the Congressional Advocacy Conference, drew more than 150 attendees to the nation’s capital last month.

Conference attendees heard from a variety of speakers invited to assist them in their efforts across the country.

“We will never have 50 state laws that look the same, but it would be great if we had 50 state laws that acted the same,” said State Government Relations Committee (SGRC) member Deanna Alexander, O.D.

SGRC Chair Bobby Jarrell, O.D., and John Whitlow, O.D., SGRC member, addressed some of the many legislative threats to the profession. These include the definition of surgery, provision of eye care by physician assistants, scope review committees, eyeglass prescriptions without exams, anti-co-management bills, insurance coverage across state lines and increased use of legislative approval of board rules before finalization.

Dr. Jarrell emphasized that it’s all about access.

“You can’t have scope without parity, and you can’t have parity without scope,” he said.

In the relationship-building session, Third Party Center Executive Committee member Peter Agnone, O.D., discussed how he achieved some recent success.

“First, you have to be persistent,” he said. “We’re opening doors for access for our patients.”

Dr. Agnone said 98 percent of relationships start with a phone call. He urged attendees to keep in mind that key contacts may be in the benefits department or be an administrator in a plan.

In the session on Medicaid advocacy, Clarke Newman, O.D., member of both the State Government Relations Center Executive Committee and the Federal Relations Committee, noted one-sixth of Americans are on Medicaid. There were 51 million beneficiaries before the Affordable Care Act, and 26 million were added after.

Dr. Alexander discussed how optometrists can participate in the EHR incentive program.

“Optometrists are not automatically included in this program,” she said. “But states and the AOA are working to make them eligible.” (For more on this issue, see the April 2012 AOA News.)

The conference also included the following sessions:

  • Essential Benefits: Optometry’s opportunity to shape the pediatric vision benefit (speakers: AOA staffers Rodney Peele, Lendy Pridgen, MPH, and Brian Reuwer)
  • Relationship Building (speakers: Dr. Agnone, Phil Goldthwait, O.D., Russell Hopkins, O.D., Carey Patrick, O.D., and Roger Seelye, O.D.)
  • Health Care Reform: The inclusion and integration of optometry (speakers: Dr. Jarrell and Stephen Montaquila, O.D., chair of the Third Party Center Executive Committee)
  • Medicaid Advocacy (speakers: Dr. Alexander, Dr. Newman and David Redman, O.D.)
  • Payment & Delivery Advocacy (speaker: Pridgen)
  • Health Insurance Exchanges (speakers: Harvey Richman, O.D., and Gary Robbins)
  • Access and Reimbursement Advocacy (speakers: Drs. Jarrell and Montaquila)
  • Patient Access to Optometry (Gregory Caldwell, O.D., and Dr. Montaquila)

The takeaway theme for the conference was emphasized by Third Party Center Director Lendy Pridgen when he advised attendees to “get involved locally!”

For more information on how to get involved, contact your affiliate association or visit www.aoa.org and view resources under “State Advocacy” and “Managed Care & Insurance.”

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