Students, optometrists, and optometry advocates were in Washington, D.C. last week to advocate for legislation that will absolutely affect the way you practice
, the care you’ll be able to provide to your patients, and the access/cost of that care your patients will receive. As informed, well-rounded future optometrists, it’s essential to stay up to date with these developments, some of which threaten our profession. Here’s what you need to know:
H.R. 3323, Dental and Optometric Care (DOC) Access Act: Certain insurance companies and vision care plans are continuously and increasingly trying to control us and our profession. They want to dictate way we practice, the services and products we provide to our patients, and the costs at which we do so. This is a direct threat to the optometry profession as a whole. The AOA and ADA (American Dental Association) have teamed up to fight against this. Health insurers and vision/dental plans want to:
-force us to discount the non-covered services we provide!
-force us to participate in their vision plan if we want to participate in a certain medical plan!
-restrict our choice of a lab!
While this may sound ridiculous to you, especially those first and second year students still learning about some of the forces at work in their chosen profession, this is an unfortunate reality that needs to be met with a united front. This is why this bill is so important.
H.R. 1312 and S.898, National Health Service Corps (NHSC) program: Many people around the country, in both rural and urban areas, have limited access to the eye care they need. Optometry students used to be a part of this fantastic program that would allow us to provide the much needed care to these areas while getting loan forgiveness and other incentives. For some reason, optometrists were removed from this program! We’re here in D.C. to support our inclusion in this program. There’s absolutely no reason we shouldn’t be. This bill has been on the table for a long time, and all the while there are people out there without access to eye care that they desperately need.
H.R. 1688, VA Residencies and Eye Care for Veterans: In order to provide easier access to eye care and lower wait times for veterans at VA hospitals around the country, this bill will increase the number of optometry residencies at VA hospitals. This one is a no brainer as it is cost neutral.
At the very least, know about these issues! As I’ve suggested before, make the trip to Washington to participate at least once in your optometry school career. It will give you a better perspective on the optometry profession, the health care system as a whole, and the kind of influence you can have as students and as future ODs. If you are interested in participating in the 2017 Student Advocacy Event at Optometry’s Meeting, click here to pre-register!