Getting wrapped up

August 30, 2012

One of the important lessons I recently learned is that if you are invited to a White House meeting you should fly in the night before just in case your flight is delayed. I’ve never been delayed flying into Washington, so I saw patients another day and thought I’d fly in that morning for the afternoon meeting. As you may suspect, my plane had mechanical problems and was delayed for several hours. Fortunately, I was able to talk myself onto another flight and arrived at the White House with eight minutes to spare. Of course, trying to get through federal security quickly was another matter, but my lesson was learned.

The reason I was flying to Washington was because your American Optometric Association was invited, along with other physicians groups, to participate in a White House discussion on health care reform. There were about 120 of us in the White House meeting, and certainly it is a tribute to the essential role of optometry and the AOA in the health care debates that Dori Carlson, O.D., and I were invited.

The educational discussion was hearty, and everyone had something to say about health care reform in this country—how quality will be judged and what changes to make in patient care. As I participated in that White House meeting, it was again very clear to me that health care is literally re-forming itself throughout this country, and many parts of health care change are already in place. Health insurance for young adults, small business tax credits, and payment initiatives based on perceived quality are here now. No matter how the November elections come out—and as proven by the recent Supreme Court decision—dramatic health care reform, and experimentation, will continue to occur in this nation.

It is also very clear to me that we cannot stop these changes. No one, no association, no business, no government agency can turn the clock back to where we were when my father practiced. And no matter what we might want, no one can throw out an anchor and keep things the same as today. Change will occur, and we must adapt. The AOA must be there to help our members adapt.

This meeting also reinforced to me what I already knew. Optometry’s future will be wrapped up in accountable care organizations, in patient-centered medical homes, in bundled payments, in enhanced care organizations, in health information exchange technologies, in electronic portals, and in the very critical quality- and value-based payment systems. And our future will be wrapped up in as yet unknown changes, and unknown systems, in our nation’s health care.

Yet throughout all these revolutionary changes, I firmly believe optometry will continue to be a valuable and essential contributor to our nation’s health. Optometry provides the overwhelming amount of eye care in this country, and the demographics of our nation’s population are clear. As our nation ages, even more optometric services will be needed. However, we are certainly not in for a free ride. Other strong forces outside our profession, and there are many, have other plans for us – and their plans are not anything you or I are going to like. As we look forward, some things are very clear to me. It is clear optometry must maintain our independence, for without our independence we become pawns.

We must assure our patients’ access to our care,
We must be allowed to deliver patient care at our highest level of training and ability,
We must continue to be recognized as physicians,
We must be fully integrated as primary health care professionals in our nation’s health care system, and
We must be paid fairly and equally for equal care, equal service, and equal responsibility.

I promise you, these are the goals and the battles the AOA has planned for, is committed to—and that we must win.

During my presidential acceptance speech, the question I asked each of us was: “What future will we write?” Or should the question be: “What will others write for us?”

There are many things, many difficult things, we must do if we are to write our own future, and we will talk about those in the days to come. But today, the first question to answer, for each of us throughout our profession, members and nonmembers, is: “Will we do the things needed to write our own future?” Will we be a member of the AOA and our affiliate? Will we support AOA-PAC and our state PACs? We will be a Keyperson for our legislator? Will we control our own practices, will we stay informed and involved?

If your answer is yes, then we will write our own future.

This year I ask each of you for your help. I need your help in fighting these battles. And I promise to always fly into Washington, D.C., the day before for a White House meeting.

Ronald Hopping, O.D., MPH
AOA president

One comment

  1. Thank you. You expressed the reality in a very crisp manner. Our team at AOAExel is here to support you and Optometry every step of the way Best regards, Ian

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