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AOA Advocacy Day

posted May 2, 2015, 2:33 PM by Jen Weigel
I think this was my fourth time on the Hill, and this is probably my third time to trudge through the rain to talk to legislators about topics important to our profession.  On AOA Advocacy Day, optometrists from all over the country gather to visit their respective legislators on Capitol Hill.  

We finally had new topics to discuss!  

We still had the good old National Health Services Corps initiative allowing Optometrists the right to participate in this government program.  Currently, all sorts of other health care providers can earn loan forgiveness in return for serving patients in areas that are not well-served by the health care system.  Optometrists are not able to even apply for this program due to some clerical error many years ago.  One of the students that was with our group of Virginia optometrists spoke about her sister in dental school is applying for this program, but she cannot do the same.

A new bill is asking for the Veterans Administration to allow more optometric residents to help veterans gain access to healthcare faster.  We've all see the news recently which shows how backlogs in patient care have affected our veterans in many negative ways.  Many of the injuries our veterans have sustained are eye-related, so additional residents can be a financially efficient way to see more patients without sacrificing quality of care.  The government has already approved more residency slots in the VA System, and the AOA would like to have some of those pre-approved slots designated for optometrists.

And, then, the best:  SGR reform!  The sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula is the reason why we've all had to hold submissions for Medicare patients' care until a "patch" could be approved by Congress allowing us to be paid for services that had already been given to patients.  And, some of the silly "patches" have only been for a few measly months before the whole thing came up for discussion again.  Well, now, it seems like there is an actual plan for getting out of the SGR rut!  The new merit-based payment system will also fully recognize optometrists as physicians within Medicare.  Looks like this was passed the very next day after our AOA Hill visits!  - jw