Doctor-Patient Relationship, Access to Primary Eye Health Care Are the Focus as More than 600 Doctors and Students of Optometry Advocate on Capitol Hill 

Contact: Yakesha Cooper, ycooper@aoa.org; 703.837.1349

Members of the American Optometric Association Met with Lawmakers to Maintain the Profession's Voice at the Center of Health Care Decision-Making  

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 9, 2019) - Hundreds of American Optometric Association (AOA) doctors of optometry, America's primary eye health care providers, and students from across the U.S. are in the nation's capital to meet with lawmakers to discuss the expanding the role of doctors of optometry in health care and the importance of eye health care for all Americans.

"The tremendous growth of AOA on Capitol Hill— from fewer than 200 doctors attending a decade ago to more than 600 doctors and students this year-shows our commitment to advancing optometry's pro-access, pro-patient priorities," said AOA President, Dr. Samuel D. Pierce. "Through direct, face-to-face advocacy, we are mapping the course for the future of eye health care delivery and helping put the trusted doctor-patient relationship at the center of important health care decision-making."

The contingent is emphasizing the important role of key issues including in-person eye health and vision care provided by AOA doctors of optometry and the urgent need for policies that put patients first. The AOA is particularly focused on fighting back against costly health and vision plan abuses, keeping the FTC from finalizing its proposed contact lens paperwork mandate, making contact lens prescription verification safer and simpler, and ensuring that America's veterans receive the high-quality eye and vision care that they need and deserve.

AOA's federal priority issues that are being addressed during several meetings with lawmakers and staff in the House and Senate include:

  • Fight back against costly health and vision plan abuses. The AOA and the American Dental Association (ADA) are backing the bipartisan DOC Access Act, sponsored by Reps. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Buddy Carter (R-GA), to help address abusive vision and dental plan practices and to help put patients and their doctors back in control of important health care decisions. AOA doctors and students will be looking to build even more momentum as this key legislation received a record 105 co-sponsors in the 115th Congress. The AOA and the ADA are also backing the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 1418 and S. 350) to increase competition in the health insurance market by eliminating the special antitrust exemption that the health insurance industry currently has under the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945.

  • Stop the FTC from finalizing its proposed contact lens paperwork mandate. AOA doctors and students are continuing to push back against the FTC's unnecessary and overly burdensome proposal to require eye doctors to obtain a signed form from each contact lens patient and be able to produce these documents in the event of a federal investigation. Following more than 100 lawmakers who have already weighed-in with the FTC in opposition to the proposal, AOA doctors and students are enlisting Senate signors to a letter from Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) urging the FTC to withdraw the proposal.

  • Make the contact lens prescription verification process simpler and safer for patients. AOA and the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety are backing new legislation which aims to address the favorite verification loophole of unscrupulous online contact lens sellers - the automated robocall. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) is the leading champion for priority legislation that would disallow the use of robocalls for contact lens prescription verifications and would also ensure that consumers have an ability to directly upload a picture of their contact lens prescription with the seller of their choice.

  • Support essential eye care for America's veterans. The AOA, Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS) and state optometric organizations continue to fight for better care for America's veterans. Among these issues are the VA's continued rollout of an experimental eye exam replacement program, known as Technology-based Eye Care Services (TECS), which aims to replace doctor-provided, in-person care with an unproven hybrid of vision and eye disease screenings. With nearly all veterans having access to a local doctor of optometry, the AOA and its Veteran Service Organization partners are pushing back against TECS and its subversion of the standard of care for some veterans.

  • The appropriate use of telehealth. Preserving the doctor-patient relationship is important for meaningful patient care, which is why the AOA continues working to support and advance the appropriate use of telehealth services as a supplement to high-value, high-quality in-person eye and vision care. However, AOA and its Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety partners continue fighting against inappropriate uses of telehealth, including those that aims to break or undermine the doctor-patient relationship.

Doctors of optometry, through innovative yet personalized care, are helping to advance the health and well-being of patients in more than 10,000 communities across the U.S. As America heads into the year 2020, the AOA and its member doctors are committed to effectively removing barriers to care, making health care more efficient and accessible for patients and ensuring every American gets their in-person comprehensive eye exam.

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The American Optometric Association, founded in 1898, is the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation's health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry (O.D.), optometric professionals and optometry students. Doctors of optometry take a leading role in patient care with respect to eye and vision care, as well as general health and well-being. As primary health care providers, doctors of optometry have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage ocular disorders, diseases and injuries and systemic diseases that manifest in the eye. Doctors of optometry provide more than two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For more information on eye health and vision topics, and to find a doctor of optometry near you, visit aoa.org.