Ellis calls on vision plans to halt anti-optometry lobbying, urges ODs not to be bullied

July 24, 2012

Joe Ellis, O.D., past president of the AOA and Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA), recently called on vision plan executives to immediately halt their anti-optometry lobbying efforts now under way in Washington, D.C., and state capitals around the country, and to work with optometric leaders to lock in the profession’s recent legislative and regulatory victories, including the new designation of pediatric vision care as essential and the Harkin patient access law targeting discriminatory Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans.

In a video message to members (http://youtu.be/ u_xdarq35z4), Dr. Ellis urged optometrists to build on the success of April’s AOA Advocacy “Super” Meeting, which brought more than 700 optometrists and optometry students to the nation’s capital seeking to build new support for the AOA’s patient access agenda, and join with the AOA and state associations in speaking with one voice on Capitol Hill, in statehouses and in forums with discriminatory health plans.

“Right now, when it’s more important than ever that our elected officials continue to hear from us, lobbyists for vision plans are urging our senators, congressmen and state legislators to turn back the clock on four decades of optometry’s progress, to separate us from the mainstream of health care, to create new barriers to OD-provided medical eye care, and to remake our practices with their very limited vision services as the centerpiece,” said Dr. Ellis. “Their lobbying efforts are outrageous, misleading and harmful, and I call on them to stop immediately.”

Dr. Ellis added, “ODs must not ever be bullied or fooled into allowing others to speak for us or to impose on us their outdated definition of optometry. Consistent with our gains over the last four decades and everything we stand for, optometry must continue to be defined by optometrists.”

Dr. Ellis – who led both the KOA and AOA to a series of historic scope and patient access victories – and the AOA Advocacy Group sought to specifically correct two inaccurate claims being made by vision plan lobbyists:

FACT: Vision plans can participate in state health exchanges. The new health care law clearly allows vision plans to participate in all of the state health insurances exchanges by partnering with health plans. Under the approach the AOA has backed, every single one of the millions of children who will gain health insurance mandating full eye health coverage in 2014 will have optometric care integrated into their health coverage.

FACT: Patient Access to optometry will expand. The new health care law is aimed at extending coverage to tens of millions of currently uninsured Americans. Thanks to the pro-active advocacy efforts of the AOA and state associations, there is no provision anywhere in the law that seeks to limit or eliminate anyone’s vision coverage. In fact, it expands coverage and patient access to optometric care by designating optometric care as essential, recognizes how optometry has advanced and tells health plans – even ERISA plans – they can’t discriminate against ODs any longer.

Dr. Ellis added, “Vision plans must think they – not us – are optometry. They are wrong, and I will continue to speak out and let them know it. Please join me in defending our profession.”

The AOA urges optometrists to join Optometry’s Full-Scope Defense Team by calling the Washington office at 855-WIN-4ODs or by emailing defendoptometry@aoa.org.

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