Foresight Fall 2013 : Page 9

fall 2013 WHAT WE LOBBIED FOR National Health Service Corps Improvement Act (HR 920/S1445) A bipartisan bill to expand access to eye health and vision care by ending an unfair exclusion of optometrists in the NHSC. At no cost, HR 920/S1445 would update the NHSC program to allow optometrists to compete for existing openings, and if selected, provide essential eye health care services in under-served communities. This is especially pertinent to students as it would allow ODs to compete for loan repayment dollars allotted to the program. Results: 36 new co-sponsors since CAC Optometric Equity in Medicaid Act (HR 855) A bipartisan bill to close a loophole in federal law used by state bureaucrats and Medicaid third-party payers to restrict patient access to covered eye health care. HR 855 would align recognition of optometrists in the Medicaid statute with the 1986 Medicare physician law signed by President Reagan. Results: 28 new co-sponsors since CAC WHAT WE LOBBIED AGAINST “Sullivan bill” retread (HR 1427, sponsored by Rep. Larry Bucshon [R-IN]) A retread of the discredited and three-time rejected “Sullivan bill” which sought to address confusion over physician qualifications with a federal agency crackdown on doctors of optometry and other targeted providers. The bill’s approach is widely recognized as an attack on competition and patient choice in health care, and has been criticized by policy think tanks and House members who have withdrawn support after learning more about it. The bill would mandate non-MD providers “educate” patients on their credentials. “Good morning, Mr. Smith. My name is Dr. Deom, but I am not a medical doctor. I am a doctor of optometry. Would you still like me to see you?” Attack on Harkin Law (HR 2817, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Harris [R-MD]) A bill aimed at repealing the historic new federal ban against exclusion of providers by health plans based on licensure. In other words, an insurance company would be prohibited from paying an OD simply because they are an OD. If this bill is passed, insurance companies would be able to decide if they would like to allow those insured by their plan to see optometrists or medical doctors only. The Harkin amendment was passed along with the Affordable Care Act specifically to stop this type of biased action on behalf of insurance companies. We now have people trying to repeal it via HR 2817. Results: No additional traction for either bill. For more information regarding the bills, who is co-sponsoring the bills, and how you can get involved by lobbying your representatives and senators, visit the AOA’s website at www.aoa.org and click the Advocacy tab. If you were unable to make this year’s Congressional Advocacy Conference and would like to help students and doctors alike from across the country fight for patient access and optometric equality in health care, contact your AOA-PAC representative or AOSA trustee. The next Congressional Advocacy Conference will be held in Washington D.C April 26-30, 2014, so mark your calendars and get your PAC donation ready! The AOSA recommends that all students start their legislative awareness career by making a yearly donation starting at $20 to the AOA-PAC. It is our future we are fighting for—let’s make sure it is a bright one! page 9

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