It’s time again this year for the annual AOA on Capitol Hill! This upcoming week optometrists and optometry students from across the country will meet with their legislators on Capitol Hill. Whether you are packing your bags and boarding your flights or just want to keep tabs on what your representatives are doing, read on!
AOA on Capitol Hill (formerly known as Congressional Advocacy Conference) is an annual conference where optometrists and optometry students meet in Washington, DC to advocate for our patients and our profession’s best interests. We accomplish this by talking to Representatives, Senators, and their aids. We provide education on the bills that we feel best support our profession and our patients. This year the conference will be taking place from Sunday April 22nd through Tuesday April 24th.
Why is this important?
Being a legislator on Capitol Hill is a complex and demanding job. Representatives are expected to vote on behalf of their constituents on many diverse and complicated issues. It is vital that our representatives be educated about the intricacies and intentions of the optometric profession so they can make the best decisions for the future of our patients.
Why do optometry students go?
Optometry students are the future of the profession and we have a responsibility to our colleagues to keep the profession thriving. Furthermore, our message is often an influential one. There is no other real opportunity for optometry students to sit side by side with their future colleagues to fight for their rights and expansion of healthcare. This is also a great opportunity to meet the state association representatives who will pair you up with a doctor from your state for the meetings on Capitol Hill.
What other activities for optometry students are there?
A new addition this year is the AOA+ Leadership Link the evening of Monday, April 23rd at 5:30pm at the J.W. Marriott Hotel Salon 1. This is an opportunity for optometry students to connect and network with leadership from across the country as well as the AOA Board of Trustees. Appetizers and refreshments will be provided.
Also new this year is a student-only reception sponsored by AOA Excel on Monday evening from 7– 10 p.m. at the National Union Building located at 918 F St. NW. Drinks and food will be provided and this event is business-casual dress.
What are the issues being supported?
The American Optometric Association has teamed up with the American Dental Association to support the bipartisan Dental and Optometric Care Access Act (HR 1606). Among other intricacies, the bill attempts to limit the extent to which vision plans dictate what doctors must charge patients for services and materials not covered by the plan.
Advocacy efforts will also include support to the VA Optometry Services. The agenda is to combat certain efforts aimed at drastically reducing or eliminating the VA Optometry Service. This will help support doctors of optometry, optometry students and optometric residents to continue their care for veterans at VA service centers across the country.
Finally, advocacy on Capitol Hill this year will be especially critical as this marks the scheduled 10-year review of the Contact Lens Rule. As part of this review, the FTC has proposed a change that would mandate that doctors of optometry obtain a signed document indicating that the patient received a copy of their contact lens prescription. We will be urging legislators to help us fight illegal contact lens sales instead of putting efforts into creating additional unnecessary policies.
What can I do to help?
If all this sounds pretty good, I encourage you to get involved! If you aren’t going to the conference this year, definitely plan on going next year. Stay tuned to OptometryStudents.com for our follow up article and extended coverage of the event. Also, check out the AOA website for more information on upcoming events and legislation. See you on Capitol Hill!