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Federal Advocacy

Optometry is a legislated profession. The decisions made by state and federal lawmakers and agency officials have a direct, and often long-lasting, impact on doctors of optometry and patients.

U.S. Capitol Building

The rules set forth in federal and state laws and regulations have a significant impact on how doctors of optometry can practice and provide care for patients.

Lawmakers and agency officials play a key role in determining what care is within optometry’s scope of practice, how patients are able to access needed eye and vision care, and how doctors are reimbursed.

Defending the rights of doctors of optometry to practice full-scope optometry is one of the most important roles of the American Optometric Association. The volunteers and staff of the AOA Advocacy Group are dedicated to fighting and winning in Washington, D.C. and state capital across the country on behalf of doctors of optometry and patients.

Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act

Health insurers, including standalone vision plans, will no longer be exempt from federal antitrust law, after the Senate approved the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act at the end of 2020.  The House had previously passed the bill, H.R. 1418, to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act exemption, on Sept. 21.

AOA supported the legislation, which was separate from the COVID-19 relief and appropriations package, because it could help address excessive market consolidation and force insurers to deal more fairly with consumers of eye care services as well as with doctors of optometry.  The repeal empowers the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to focus on specific anticompetitive health insurance actions, thereby leveling the playing field for doctors and other health care professions who already abide by the same set of rules.

After more than a decade of sustained advocacy by a coalition of physician organizations, Congress overwhelmingly favored the move, which aims to lower the cost of health coverage, with the House approving it by voice vote, and, on Dec. 22, the Senate agreeing by unanimous consent.  The 75-year-old McCarran-Ferguson Act had exempted health insurers from federal antitrust enforcement, leaving it to states to primarily regulate the business of insurance.  Now, federal regulators have more power to tackle issues that state regulators have not addressed.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE:  S. 4613 – Senate Commerce Committee

AOA-backed legislation to immediately undo regulatory burdens on optometry practices faced a delay in committee-level consideration in the U.S. Senate as of late Wednesday (Nov. 18).

The measure, the Contact Lens Rule Modernization Act (S. 4613), is designed to eliminate the FTC’s new paperwork mandate and ban robocalls into doctor offices by internet mass retailers. The AOA advocacy team in Washington, D.C., and keyperson doctors across the country, are continuing to work to build further support in the Senate so that the bill will be rescheduled on the legislative “mark-up” agenda before Congress adjourns in December. S. 4613’s bipartisan list of co-sponsors includes Sen. John Boozman, O.D., R-Ark., a doctor of optometry, and Sen. Rand Paul, M.D., R-Ky., an ophthalmologist, as well as:

Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
James Inhofe, R-Okla.
David Perdue, R-Ga.
Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.
John Barrasso, M.D., R-Wyo.
Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va.
James Lankford, R-Okla.
Susan Collins, R-Maine
Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss.
Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

To make sure that your voice is heard, please use the AOA’s Action Center or text ‘FTCFix’ to 855.465.5124 to send an urgent written message to your senators asking them to co-sponsor S. 4613 today.

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