By: Matthew Geller
SUNY Optometry 2013
I stumbled upon a video today of your AOA President, Dr. Dori Carlson describing her recent visit to the White House on November 18th 2011. Her visit had a strong purpose; to deliver a pro-access, pro-patient message to those on Capitol Hill.
I really encourage every student to read this summary just to get a slight clue of some of the politics going on in our profession right now.
From my work with OptometryStudents.com and hence a large student population I know that not many students truly understand the politics of Optometry or the necessity of having an AOA presence in Washington. That being the case I will do my best to summarize the topics that Dr. Carlson is talking about in this video.
A Summary of Dr. Carlson’s Message from YouTube
1) The AOA is pushing to ensure that comprehensive vision examinations are part of the essential benefits for children under health care reform. This doesn’t mean just a screening for kids but actually a full eye examination, covered by the child’s health insurance provider. It will be a huge victory for optometry if the legislation passes, allowing optometrists to provide millions of children with comprehensive eye exams.
- FYI – “pediatric vision care” is defined as an annual comprehensive eye exam for kids from infancy through age 21 coupled with coverage for vision correction treatment, including eyeglasses.
2) Dr. Carlson is pushing the message that the American Medical Association (AMA) and private insurance companies are trying to dictate the scope of practice for Optometry and also the compensation we should receive for our services. Dr. Carlson’s message is that we the optometrists should not let others tell us what to do. We should stand up for ourselves, make our voices heard and tell the law makers what is best for our profession and patients.
- Medicine is trying to define us by what we are NOT, and not by what we ARE.
- Insurance companies are trying to define us by the services for which they reimburse us.
- Optometrists need to define our own profession because we know our profession better than anyone else.
3) Dr. Carlson expressed that certain anti-optometry lobbying organizations are delivering a far different message to Washington, DC about pediatric vision care legislation. Specifically these groups want to limit children’s vision benefits to a basic screening and not a comprehensive eye exam. If these groups win, Optometry will miss an amazing opportunity to benefit O.D’s and our patients.
4) Many health plans have business models that do not include optometry with the rest of health care. In other words they are saying that vision care does not belong in primary health care. The AOA is fighting hard to legally include optometry, as “primary health care” and if they succeed this would change our profession in a dramatically positive way.
- Specifically she speaks about Vision Service Provider (VSP) the largest stand-alone vision plan and how the AOA is trying their absolute best to ensure a positive relationship with the billion-dollar company and develop a win-win situation. In recent months VSP has not cooperated with the AOA and hence not cooperated with legislation that would benefit all optometrists and our patients. The reason being is that this would negatively impact VSP’s profits and business model.
I hope my summary article has been insightful and gave you a basic idea of some of the important issues that AOA fights for every day and also the issues going on while you are treating patients in clinic.
If you are wondering how you can help make a difference you should make sure that you remain an AOA member when you become an optometrist or even better you can reach out to the AOSA Trustee at your school and tell them you want to get involved on these political issues. They will hook you up and get you involved for sure!
Stay up to date with these important issues at OptometryStudents.com; we will cover the story as it unfolds.
I encourage all students to do their own research on the topic. You can do that right here on OptometryStudents.com, just check out these articles.