The Dental and Optometric Care Access Act, which seeks to empower doctors and patients in their dealings with vision plans, eliminate a growing level of anticompetitive practices in health care and help improve overall quality of patient care, was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives March 17.
The bill, also known as HR 1606, or the DOC Access Act, is supported by the American Optometric Association, Georgia Optometric Association and the American Dental Association, according to a press release from the AOA. The legislation has been championed by U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa). Original cosponsors of the bill include: Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) and Paul Gosar, DDS (R-Ariz.).
While 40 states have enacted legislation addressing such exploitations for plans regulated at the state level, a federal effort is needed to address plans that have been sidestepping these state laws, according to the AOA
The DOC Access Act would prohibit federally regulated health, vision and dental plans from restrictions on medical plan participation, limits on a doctor’s choice of lab, and noncovered services and materials mandates.
"Millions of Americans rely on local doctors of optometry for their comprehensive eye and vision health care needs, and it is time to put a stop to the barriers vision plans place on the doctor-patient relationship and access to quality care,” AOA President Andrea P. Thau, OD, said in the release.
These certain types of plan abuses lead to higher overall costs and limit patient access to the doctors of their choice, according to the release. The plans can dictate what doctors charge for services not covered by the plan, force them to accept damaging terms for supplemental vision plans and set which labs they can or cannot use.
A 2016 study by Avalon Health Economics conducted by a group of independent health economists found that monopolistic behavior by vision plans “is not the kind that is good for consumers — it’s the kind designed to transfer operating margins from providers to plans without benefiting consumers,” the release stated.
During the last session of Congress, the legislation (formerly HR 3323) had bipartisan support with 65 cosponsors.