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AOA debriefs on optometric legislative and advocacy updates

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The latest legislative news and advocacy efforts among the optometric community were presented during the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) annual Optometry’s Meeting this weekend.

Let’s take it from the top.

First things first: During his House of Delegates report, AOA Executive Director Jon Hymes shared that, based on findings from a recent AOA survey, 300+ new optometric clinicians have joined the organization in the first 6 months of 2024.

Hymes noted that AOA members are not only growing in size and effectiveness but are also prepared to “safeguard optometry’s essential and expanding role in health care and support the practice success of our doctors.”

Now these legislation updates.

The AOA has expanded its collaboration with other medical organizations by partnering with the American Dental Association (ADA) to file a U.S. Supreme Court briefing.

More about this: According to the AOA, the briefing seeks to block vision and dental plans from issuing the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) statute to avoid compliance at a state level.

ERISA refresh: Established in 1974, the federal law establishes the minimum standards for most voluntarily-established, private industry retirement and health plans to provide protections for these plans’ individuals.

Nice! What else?

The AOA has also collaborated with the private and nonprofit-based National Consumers League (NCL), noted as “the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy group.”

The optometric connection: NCL is supporting the AOA’s legislative efforts to “crack down on plan abuses and federal legislation to ban ‘robocalls’ in the contact lens marketplace.”

Some background on this, please.

Originally introduced into the House of Representatives in April 2023 as House Bill (HB) 2748: The Contact Lens Prescription Modernization Act, this bill proposes revising the requirements for prescription verification of contact lens purchases.

Specifically: “Online sellers of prescription contact lenses must provide consumers with a method to transmit a digital copy of their prescriptions to such sellers,” the bill states.

Further, the bill proposed that online sellers must also encrypt patients’ protected health information sent by email and prohibit any prescription contact lens seller from using robocalls to verify a patient’s prescription.

To note: The legislation was already jointly supported by the AOA and the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (HCAPS).

See our full coverage on that bill.

And more recently?

S. 4083, a bipartisan-backed companion bill to HB 2748, was introduced into the United States Senate in April 2024 with, once again, the full support of the AOA and HCAPS.

The difference between HB 2748 and S 4083: None. In fact, they’re essentially the same (just updated for this year’s legislative session).

What they strive for: To establish a paper trail in order to strengthen the online contact lens ordering process and ensure consumers receive their correct contact lenses/prescriptions.

And how will this be done?

Retailers will be required to use direct communication (email, live phone calls, fax, etc.) to confirm patients’ prescription accuracy.

Plus: Retailers will also be required to offer a HIPAA-compliant method for enabling patients to upload an electronic version of their prescription—thus “deprioritizing the use of verification robocalls,” according to the AOA.

So … any other notable partnerships?

Yes: American Veterans (AMVETS).

What it is: A nonpartisan, volunteer-led organization of 250,000+ U.S. veterans that provides services such as veterans affairs (VA) filing assistance, employment assistance, and—in this context—legislative advocacy.

The optometric connection: AMVETS has “joined the call for full recognition of optometric scope in the VA health system,” the AOA reported.

What else to know?

Also of interest: the AOA’s Health and Vision Plan Action Report

Its purpose: Noted as the AOA’s “Third Party Center,” this report tracks AOA member-reported challenges and complaints with health and vision plans as well as current AOA-affiliated action being taken to resolve such issues.

See here for the latest reports (and resolutions).

And on the subject of successful legislation?

Across the United States, Hymes noted that:

  • 10 states have stomped on proposed “not-a-doctor” bills
  • 12 states are officially allowing optometrists (ODs) to perform specific laser procedures
  • 5 states have implemented laws reining in vision benefit managers (VBMs)
  • 2 congressional panels are actively investigating these VBM abuses
    • Check out details on the investigation into the Federal Trade Commission’s regulation of the vision insurance market

What other legislation is a hot topic right now?

Most notably: The Early Detection of Vision Impairments in Children (EDVI) Act of 2024.

Its background: The bipartisan legislation was introduced into the U.S. House in May 2024 by two representatives and co-chairs of the Congressional Vision Caucus, a bipartisan coalition working to advance national policy on vision-related issues and disabilities.

Its purpose: To ensure that pediatric patients with potential vision problems are identified and connected to receive appropriate eye care within their state/local communities.

  • How this will be done: By supporting and providing schools, early childhood professionals, healthcare providers (HCPs), public health professionals, and families with the following resources:
    • Updated/evidence-based vision screening methods
    • Improved eye care referrals
    • Advanced follow-up protocols to ensure early diagnosis and treatment

See here for details on the state and local community’s bigger picture—plus where the funding will come from.

Speaking of pediatrics … what should we know about myopia efforts?

In partnership with CooperVision, the AOA’s recently launched national initiative, The Myopia Collective, intends to encourage ODs and their industry allies to shift the current status quo of pediatric myopia care from correction and management to comprehensive treatment.

Watch our discussion with two leading representatives of the initiative to learn more about its purpose and goals.

And click here to learn about the newly-announced 60+ ODs from across the country who will serve as Change Agents and lead the myopia control initiative.

Nice! And lastly?

To top these updates off, the AOA also introduced the first-ever “AOA Advocacy Awareness Network.”

What it is: A “foundational collective of influential experts in optometry who collaborate to further the profession and break through the media noise to connect with doctors of optometry,” according to the organization.

And its first member: Alan Glazier, OD.

Stay tuned to learn more about this in the near future!

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