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Advocacy conference will focus national spotlight on optometry ahead of health law deadlines

June 18, 2013

All of the AOA’s successes in federal advocacy over the years—from parity in Medicare in 1986, to the designation of pediatric vision care as essential in 2013, to the creation of a federal patient access law in 2010—have come as a result of the willingness of doctors and students to take optometry’s message directly and repeatedly to Capitol Hill. This year’s AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference provides ODs and students with an important opportunity to join or renew the fight for patients and the future of the profession.

Days before the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) state-based health insurance marketplaces go online and mere months before many of the law’s remaining yet-to-be-implemented provisions take full effect, hundreds of ODs and optometry students from across the country will gather in the nation’s capital to take part in the 2013 AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference and help focus the spotlight on optometry’s top priorities.

This year’s AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference, Sept. 9-11 in Washington, D.C., provides the profession with a timely opportunity to meet directly with policymakers just before full implementation of many substantial ACA provisions, including the AOA-backed Harkin provider non-discrimination law and the new pediatric vision care essential health benefit. The conference will also have a new focus on further implementing social media into ongoing advocacy activities.

While focusing on ACA implementation, hundreds of AOA doctors and students will also use their time in the nation’s capital to help grow support for optometry’s legislative priorities. They will support the efforts aimed at ending the misguided exclusion of optometrists from the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) student loan repayment and scholarship programs (H.R. 920) and averting a potential crisis in access to primary eye care for Medicaid patients by amending the federal Medicaid statute to fully recognize ODs (H.R. 855).

Last year, a record number of AOA doctors and students spread across Capitol Hill to help raise new awareness of the profession and advance the AOA’s pro-patient, pro-access agenda. Before meeting with lawmakers, the nearly 700 attendees learned more about ACA implementation directly from top government officials, the ongoing policy battles in Congress directly from lawmakers, and the overall lay of the political landscape from NBC News White House Correspondent Chuck Todd.

To watch video highlights from last year’s conference, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS-JubS50vA.

In keeping with the AOA’s longstanding mission to provide “Advocacy for Optometry’s Future,” this year’s meeting will also have a special focus on preparing doctors and students who are new to federal advocacy for the unique challenges and satisfaction of serving as the profession’s direct link to U.S. senators and representatives and their key aides. The agenda is aimed at developing optometry’s next generation of well-connected frontline advocates, future federal Keypersons and, even hopefully, OD candidates for federal office.

Optometric involvement on all levels is necessary to ensure the profession’s views are heard by lawmakers.

For the latest updates on the upcoming conference, go to www.aoa.org/x5821.xml.

To sign up for this year’s Congressional Advocacy Conference, contact Julie Trute at JLTrute@aoa.org.

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