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AOA advocates continue to build on momentum gained from optometry’s biggest advocacy day ever

June 8, 2012

In the weeks following optometry’s biggest advocacy day ever, AOA-member doctors and students continue the important work of building new support in the nation’s capital for AOA’s pro-access, pro-patient advocacy agenda.

Whether reaching out during breaks in the legislative calendar or using the AOA’s Online Legislative Action Center to weigh-in directly with lawmakers, advocates are working hard to build on momentum gained during the record-setting AOA Congressional Advocacy and Third Party National Conferences.

Held April 1-3, the joint meetings brought together nearly 700 AOA-member doctors and students in Washington, D.C., to advocate for optometry’s future. ODs and students also made the most of valuable conference time by meeting with the offices of nearly every lawmaker on Capitol Hill as well as with a number of top Obama administration officials.

Overall, hundreds of ODs and students urged their senators and representatives to formally support AOA-backed optometry-specific legislation now pending before Congress, including the National Health Service Corps Improvement Act (H.R. 1195/S. 2192), as well as the Optometric Equity in Medicaid Act (H.R. 1219).

At the same time, attendees urged policymakers to ensure the new children’s vision care essential health benefit was defined as direct access to comprehensive eye exams and that the new provider non-discrimination safeguards of the Harkin Amendment and other AOA-backed provisions of the health overhaul law are fully and fairly implemented.

While the main focus on the conference was aimed at maximizing the valuable time spent advocating for optometry’s future on Capitol Hill, optometry’s frontline advocates at the joint conference heard directly from leaders on the forefront of efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Steve Larsen, J.D., U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Deputy administrator and director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, spoke of the leading role his office is playing in implementing much of the ACA and stressed that ODs could and should play a larger role in coming changes to health care payment and delivery.

Mike Kreidler, O.D., former member of Congress and Washington state insurance commissioner, spoke of his key role in implementing the new health overhaul law on the state level and spoke of the importance of fully implementing the Harkin Amendment, the Stabenow Amendment and the pediatric vision care essential health benefit.

Nancy Nielsen, M.D., Ph.D., senior adviser at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, provided attendees with valuable information on the important work she and her federal agency colleagues are doing to develop new health care delivery and payment models.

Dr. Nielsen also encouraged ODs to get more involved in new care delivery models, such as Accountable Care Organizations.

“Optometry’s growing national presence and prowess in Washington, D.C., is a direct reflection of the important and ever-expanding role that doctors of optometry play in the delivery of health care in America,” said Ron Hopping, O.D., MPH, AOA president-elect.

“It gives me great hope for the future of our profession when I look back over the last few days and count the record number of AOA-member optometry students – more than 300 in all – here in attendance,” Dr. Hopping added.

“Together, we extended our reach to nearly every House and Senate office. Now, the real works begins and we must again commit to sustaining our increased momentum and building new support for our pro-patient, pro-access agenda,” he said.

For full coverage of the 2012 AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference, including video highlights, visit the AOA’s Health Care Reform page at www.aoa.org/reform.

To watch an important post-conference video message from AOA President Dori Carlson, O.D., and Dr. Hopping, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS-JubS50vA&feature=player_embedded.

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