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Rep. Bucshon picks up where former Rep. Sullivan left off

June 3, 2013

New bill threatens how ODs practice, care for patients

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), a medical doctor and two-term member of Congress, introduced legislation into the 113th Congress that could give the federal government new powers to single out optometrists and other health care professionals and assert greater control over critical aspects of how ODs can practice and provide care for patients.

Nearly identical to anti-optometry legislation backed by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology – and introduced year after year by former Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), Rep. Bucshon’s so-called “Truth in Healthcare Marketing Act” is designated as H.R. 1427.

Overall, the legislation calls on the Federal Trade Commission to launch a new campaign targeting certain “deceptive or misleading” practices by health care providers and aims to require the agency to produce a report indicating its findings.

Differing little from previous efforts, Rep. Bucshon’s bill was given a new name and added to Sullivan’s original language a vague “non-preemption” clause that could actually make it easier for the new law to override state laws.

While Bucshon’s bill claims to target “misleading or deceptive advertising or representation in the provision of health care services,” the AOA and other groups fear the true aim of this effort is not to protect public health, but rather to limit competition among providers and raise the specter of criminalizing routine practices.

First introduced by Congressman Sullivan in 2006, “truth in health care advertising” bills have been closely linked to the AMA’s Scope of Practice Partnership (SOPP), a national public relations campaign that has targeted optometry and sought to roll back patient choice and other access to care laws.

Despite the backing of organized medicine, Rep. Sullivan did not gain the support needed to advance the measure in Congress each year and, according to Capitol Hill insiders, his sponsorship of the anti-competitive legislation played a role in his undoing.

On the night Sullivan lost his Republican primary race to challenger Jim Bridenstine, Fox News reported that several lawmakers on the floor of the U.S. House attributed the loss to his alienation of optometrists back in his Oklahoma district.

Opposition to his legislation intensified earlier in the year when the free marketers of the Competitive Enterprise Institute blasted the bill as “anti-business and anti-consumer” and the conservative Heritage Foundation labeled Sullivan’s bill as nothing more than an effort aimed at “protecting the MDs’ monopoly and criminalizing competition.”

The AOA will continue working to oppose legislative efforts targeting optometrists and their patients.

For more information, including how you can get more involved in federal advocacy through the AOA Federal Keyperson Program and AOA-PAC, contact the AOA Washington office team at 800-365-2219 or ImpactWashingtonDC@aoa.org.

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