The American Optometric Association led nearly 500 optometrists and students to Capitol Hill in April to focus its advocacy efforts on federal issues affecting patients and the profession.
Priorities included continuing pressure on the FTC to withdraw its proposed contact lens prescription acknowledgment form, ending health and vision plan abuses, and fighting efforts to downgrade veterans’ care through a pilot telehealth program, according to a press release from the organization.
The AOA addressed the outside pressure from health and vision plan policies, online vision tests, online mass retailers and device loopholes that put patients at risk.
"We're seeing the powerful impact of the AOA's sustained commitment to advocacy," Samuel D. Pierce, OD, AOA president-elect, said in the release. "Although government moves very slowly, the new support for our legislative and regulatory priorities has us setting the agenda."
AOA President Christopher J. Quinn, OD, and American Optometric Student Association past-president Andy Mackner briefed Steve Munisteri, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, about the importance of the FTC prioritizing patient safety and withdrawing its Contact Lens Rule proposal.
Mackner outlined the debt burden faced by optometry students and pressed for full recognition of optometry in the National Health Service Corps student loan repayment program.
Optometry’s advocates reinforced how the FTC’s Contact Lens Rule proposal represents unnecessary red tape that will impose increased compliance costs per year without making an effort to crack down on the real threat of illegal contact lens sales, according to the release.
AOA worked to build support for a new bipartisan letter from Reps. Michael Burgess, MD, (R-Texas) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), leading members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The Heath Care Alliance for Patient Safety briefed attendees on the group’s recent advocacy activities, including a strong presence at the FTC's contact lens workshop.
Veterans’ health was also on the agenda, with a guest panel of veterans’ associations and representatives discussing the future of VA care, including privatization of care, rural access, the use of telehealth and the importance of VA residencies to optometric education.
The AOA Advocacy Group recognized three members of Congress, including:
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who is on the front line against the FTC's contact lens paperwork mandate;
Congressman Ralph Abraham, MD, (R-La.), an early supporter of both the AOA-backed HR 1606, the Dental and Optometric Access Act, and an early signer of the House letter opposing the FTC proposal; and
Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), a long-time champion for patients and the profession and the lead Democratic sponsor of HR 1606.
John Boozman, OD, (R-Ark.) was presented with the 2018 AOA Health Care Leadership Award during the meeting’s opening reception. Sen. Boozman has led the charge against the proposed signed acknowledgment form and has fought efforts to undermine veterans’ health care.